KNOWLEDGE IS GOLD
From the beginning of history, gold has been considered a noble metal (the chemical symbol is Au, from Aurora or dawn), and it is the most valuable commodity in the world. Gold jewelry is beautiful, never goes out of style, is wearer friendly, and it is impervious to corrosion of any type.
Gold can be manipulated or worked into nearly any shape an artisan desires from tiny strands that do not break easily to very thin sheets. One ounce of gold can be hammered into ultra thin sheets that measure 10 feet square!
Pure Gold Jewelry
The ring that you are wearing on your finger is probably marked 18K, 14K, or 10K with the K standing for karat, the system used to describe the percentage or express the proportion of pure gold in an alloy. The higher the karat number, the higher the percentage of gold in your gold jewelry.
- 24K gold is pure gold or 99.999% pure.
- 18K gold contains 18 parts gold and 6 parts of one or more additional metals, making it 75% gold.
- 14K gold contains 14 parts gold and 10 parts of one or more additional metals, making it 58.3% gold.
- 12K gold contains 12 parts gold and 12 parts of one or more additional metals, making it 50% gold.
- 10K gold contains 10 parts gold and 14 parts of one or more additional metals, making it 41.7% gold. 10K gold is the minimum karat that can be called “gold” in United States and North America, and jewelry is required by law to be stamped so that consumers will be able to identify the quality.
European gold jewelry is marked with numbers that indicate the percentage of gold, such as:
- 18K gold is marked 750 to indicate 75% gold
- 14K gold is marked 585 to indicate 58.5% gold
- 10K gold is marked 417 to indicate 41.7% gold
Other Gold Markings
The karat marking on your gold jewelry may be accompanied by a hallmark or trademark identifying the maker. The country of origin may also be included.
Why and What Other Metals Are Mixed With Gold?
There is some jewelry made of pure gold, but it is soft and not practical for daily wear. Other metals are mixed with gold such as silver, copper, nickel, zinc tin, and manganese. Adding other metals to the mix allows metallurgists to change the color of gold and make it more durable. Palladium or nickel can be added to create white gold, and copper produces a rose or pink tint while silver gives gold a greenish cast.
When metals are added to the gold the result is an alloy, a blended mixture of the metals. Solid gold is a term that can be used to describe an item that is at least 10K (in the U.S.) gold all the way through. Even though it is a gold alloy, 18K, 14K or anything down to 10K, it can be considered solid gold.
Gold refineries are constantly changing alloy combinations to come up with a formula that will produce a more appealing combination, and these combinations are closely guarded secrets. Italian gold is preferred by some people for it more realistic gold color and outstanding craftsmanship and award winning designs. However, North American gold manufacturers are known worldwide for their higher quality and construction.
In order to achieve a much less expensive item, there are many ways to mechanically apply a coating of gold to a less costly metal. The thicker the layer of gold is applied to the item, the less likely it is to wear away easily and expose the cheaper metal underneath.
Gold filled items have markings that indicate how much and what type of gold was used for the layer. A marking on an item that indicates 1/20 12K G.F. means that it is at least 1/120th 12K gold by weight.
Gold Plated/Gold Wash
The gold layer in gold plated items is typically thinner than gold in gold filled items, so it usually wears away more quickly. Gold washed items is used to describe a very thin layer of gold, and one that will not stand up to wear for any length of time.
Buying Gold Jewelry
- Solid gold is durable, so it is a better choice if you will be wearing the jewelry item regularly. If you have allergies to nickel or other metals, choose items that have high gold content such as 18K or 22K gold jewelry.
- Gold filled or plated jewelry is suitable for wearing occasionally, because everyday use would diminish the gold layer exposing the metal underneath that possibly could stain your skin or cause allergy reactions.
- Gold is always a good investment, so for jewelry that will last a lifetime and into the future, buy the highest quality gold that you can afford.
Caring for Your Gold Jewelry
Chemicals in the air can slightly oxidize the gold in your jewelry depending on the karat grade, and gold jewelry will also develop a film build up of oils from lotions, powders, soaps, and natural skin. Do not let your gold jewelry come in contact with chlorine bleach because it can damage the jewelry. Listed below are some hints to keep your gold jewelry looking like new.
1. Detergent Bath
Use any mild liquid detergent (such as dishwashing soap) with warm water to produce a suds bath. Brush the pieces of jewelry with an eyebrow brush or toothbrush that has been dipped into the suds bath, and then transfer the jewelry to a wire tea strainer and rinse under warm running water. Dry with a soft, lint-free cloth.
- Cold Water Soak
Make a solution of 50% cold water and 50% household ammonia in a cup. Soak the jewelry for 30 minutes. Lift out and clean with an eyebrow brush or toothbrush. Swish the jewelry in the cold water solution and then let the jewelry drain on tissue paper.
- Quick Dip Method
Purchase a brand name liquid jewelry cleaner found in many stores (your local jewelry store will be able to recommend a good product). Read the label and follow the instructions carefully.
- Ultrasonic Cleaner
This is a small machine that will clean any piece of jewelry that can be dipped in a liquid for a number of minutes (not usually recommended for soft stones such as opals and pearls). There are a variety of ultrasonic cleaners, but they all work on a high-frequency action using water and often a detergent. Read the instructions carefully before using your ultrasonic cleaner.
Storing Gold Jewelry
Keep your precious pieces of gold jewelry in a fabric-lined jewel case or box that ideally will have separate compartments. If you cannot separate your jewelry in your jewelry box, wrap each piece individually or place in a small plastic pouches. Remember that diamond pieces combined with gold jewelry can scratch the gold pieces and even gold pieces can damage each other.
Traveling With Jewelry
It is recommended that you give special care when packing your gold and diamond jewelry. It is wise to invest in travel jewelry cases that are available in all sizes and patterns with most having velvet linings so that pins and earrings can be attached. There are usually separate compartments for bracelets and necklaces. You may want to pack a small plastic bottle of jewelry cleaner to assure that your jewelry will look its best when you arrive at your destination.