What is gold?
Gold is a bright, warm yellow metal that’s usually found in nuggets or grains in rocks. Gold is one of the most popular precious metals used in jewellery and is timeless, versatile and elegant. As pure 24 carat gold is too soft and prone to denting to form a functional piece of jewellery, it’s usually mixed together with other metals into an alloy that makes it more durable for practical everyday wear and can also change its look.
What is 9k, 14k, 18k and 22k gold?
These measurements above refer to the percentage of gold within each alloy. For example, 18k gold contains 75% gold and 25% of other metals. How do we know it contains 75? Gold? We divide 18/24 = 75%. 18k pieces of jewellery should have a ‘750’ stamped onto it. 18k is a popular choice for fine jewellery such as engagement and wedding bands, because they’re durable, richly coloured and won’t tarnish or corrode.
There’s a common misconception that 18k yellow gold jewellery contains more gold than 18k white and rose gold jewellery, but this is not the case and they all contain the same amount of gold.
Similarly the amount of gold in a 14k piece is calculated as 14/24 = 58% gold and 9/24 = 37.5% gold. 9k pieces of jewellery are stamped with ‘375’. 9k jewellery is paler in colour, than 24k, 18k and 14k gold pieces, because there’s less gold in its composition and understandably less expensive. 9k jewellery usually isn’t worn close to the skin as it has a tendency to reach with some people’s skin, because of the high content of other metals in its composition.
What other metals makes up the rest of the alloy?
Yellow gold is usually mixed with silver, copper, zinc and palladium to form a variety of yellow, white and rose gold jewellery. The percentage of gold and other metals in the alloy, will determine the final colour of the gold alloy. The amount of gold in each alloy is referred to as caratage.
Some common alloy compositions are shown below:
|Type||Carats||Gold (%)||Silver (%)||Copper (%)||Zinc||Palladium|
These are common jewellery alloys, but are not the only compositions. Some white gold alloys contain a very small percentage of nickel, which some people may have skin sensitivities to.
White gold jewellery is sometimes mistaken for platinum because of it’s crisp, bright colour. Most white gold jewellery is rhodium plated which makes it look even brighter, but as this is only a plating, it will wear away and will need to be replated in time, to retain it’s bright lustre. White gold is generally less expensive than platinum.
Rose gold is alloyed with a higher composition of copper, so that’s where it gets it distinctive rosy-pink hue. It is also the most durable of the 3 types of gold, because of the properties from copper. As rose gold is alloyed with copper, it may mean people with sensitivities to copper can’t wear it.
How to store your gold jewellery
Whilst gold jewellery doesn’t tarnish like sterling silver, the colour can become dull from exposure to chemicals (hairspray, makeup, body lotion etc) and scratched up or tangled from banging around other pieces of jewellery.
Where possible, keep your gold jewellery stored in a dry, cool place and separately in it’s original pouch or box.
How to care for your gold jewellery
Remember to always put your jewellery on last, after you’ve applied your makeup, perfume, hairspray etc and the first thing you take off at night so it won’t get caught on your clothing whilst you sleep. Likewise avoid exposure to harsh or abrasive household chemicals. Chemicals in these can lead to the colour becoming dull. There are special gold polishing cloths and gold polishing creams available to help remove traces of these everyday chemicals – available at most major jewellery retailers.
We recommend that you take off your gold jewellery when you shower/bathe, go to the beach, swim or other heavy physical activity like going to the gym (doing weights!) and gardening. Jewellery especially items like rings may slip off in the water, so be careful and as gold is a naturally soft metal, it could be prone to dents, scratches or even cause some stones to fall out from their setting!
Ideally you should annually bring your gold jewellery into a jeweller to check that all the clasps and other moving parts are still secure. You may also consider getting your piece professionally cleaned and polished whilst you’re there.
Interested in getting a custom piece designed and handcrafted for you?
Drop me a message and let’s discuss how we can bring your jewellery idea to life!
Looking for the ultimate guides to buying, cleaning and caring for sterling silver jewellery?
- Check out our guide on what common metals jewellery are made from,
- Why your skin turns green from wearing cheap chainstore jewellery,
- How to clean and care for your sterling silver jewellery