What Are The Different Types of Gold?
Gold has been extolled by humanity for centuries, making gold jewelry a classic choice that is sure to be cherished for a lifetime — or longer. Besides its hallmark warmth and richness, gold is beloved for its variety. It’s available in colors (the three most popular colors are yellow, white, and rose), and in different karat weights.
What Is A Karat?
The karat (not to be confused with carat, the weight measurement for diamonds and gemstones) is a measurement of gold’s purity. Gold in its purest form registers as 24K. But since pure gold is fairly malleable, alloys like silver, copper, nickel and zinc must be added for strength. Most gold jewelry is either 18K (75 percent pure gold) or 14K (58.5 percent pure gold), meaning it is comprised of a mix of pure gold and other metals. Gold’s color comes from the various combinations of alloys during the manufacturing process.
In the U.S., a piece of gold jewelry must be at least 10K (41.7 percent pure gold) to be legally advertised as gold jewelry. While 10K gold is the strongest of all gold types, its color isn’t as rich and lustrous as 18K or 14K gold. In terms of the price tag, a higher karat count will usually demand a higher dollar amount. Most gold jewelry is stamped with its karat number, so be sure to check for this mark.
Which Golden Hue Is Right For You?
Gold naturally is yellow, however mixing it with nickel, manganese or palladium will turn it white. The amount and type of alloys added to pure gold also affect its color. As a rule of thumb — the fewer the alloys, the brighter the gold color. Alloys such as copper, silver and zinc create varying shades of yellow. White gold is typically alloyed with nickel, copper and zinc, although it can also be coated with Rhodium, which is a member of the platinum family. White gold coated with
rhodium will have a bright white color, making it similar in appearance to platinum. Rose gold, as you may have guessed, gets its reddish color from copper alloys.
What Is Gold-Plated Jewelry?
You may see jewelry advertised as “gold-plated.” This means that the piece has a base metal (usually steel, brass or sterling silver) that has been electroplated with gold. The electroplating process involves dipping the base metal into a solution charged with an electrical current that causes the base metal to attract a thin coating of gold. Something to consider: Depending on its quality and the care it receives, the gold on a gold-plated piece may wear off over time.
"Vermeil" is a special type of gold plating. The base metal of a vermeil piece must always be sterling silver, and its gold coating must be at least 2.5 microns thick (about 100 millionths of an inch). Additionally, the gold used in the coating must be at least 10 karats, though some pieces are covered with 12 or 14 karat gold.