Gold is one of the most precious and valuable metals in the world. Found in bodies of water and the earth’s crust, gold has been popular for eons. There are many different ways to present the metal in jewelry. Part of its romance is that the metal’s color and consistency can be manipulated to match almost any desire.
Because gold comes in so many forms, there is a grading system designed to tell you how valuable the item is, and what it is made of. Pure gold is extremely soft, other metals are mixed with gold to make the it more durable, less expensive, and to alter it’s color.
All jewelry is required by law to be stamped so you will know the quality of gold used. Jewelry made in North America is typically marked with the karat grade – 10, 14 or 18 karats. Jewelry made in Italy is typically marked with "fineness" such as 417, 583, etc. So if your jewelry does not have a karat grade stamped on it, check for a 3-digit fineness number.
Chances are the ring on your finger is marked 18K, 14K, or 10K, with the K standing for karat, the system used to describe the percentage of pure gold an item contains.
You'll find examples of pure gold jewelry, but pure gold is soft and isn't practical for daily wear. Other metals are mixed with it to make it more durable (and to lower its cost).
100% pure gold.
No other metal has been mixed.
Contains 18 parts gold and 10 parts of one or more additional metals.
58.3% gold. Contains 14 parts gold and 10 parts of one or more additional metals.
Contains 12 parts gold and 12 parts of one or more additional metals.
Contains 10 parts gold and 14 parts of one or additional metals.
Minimum karat that can be called “gold” in the United States.
Adding other metals to gold allows us to change the color of gold. Palladium or nickel can be added to create white gold. Adding copper produces a rose or pink tint, while silver gives gold a greenish cast.
Raw gold is yellow, but it can be transformed into shades of rose, white, green, and even two-tone. None of these additional colors are natural, and instead produced by mixing pure 24K yellow gold with metals like copper, silver, zinc, and nickel.
Rose Gold is also known as pink gold or red gold, and is a mixture with a high percentage of copper. It has a very subtle and delicate color that may intensify somewhat with age due to a slight, but commonly regarded as attractive, tarnishing of the copper alloy. Rose gold is created by increasing the copper mixed with the gold and decreasing the silver.
White gold is created by increasing the silver-colored alloys (zinc, silver, nickel) normally mixed with gold.
Green gold is created by mixing an alloy of pure yellow gold and pure silver. For rings, harder metals such as nickel or zinc are sometimes added to make the gold more durable. The green color, like rose gold, is very subtle and is most noticeable when it is used in a piece of jewelry next to areas of yellow, white, and pink gold.