When buying gold jewellery, there’s a ton of different options to consider. You get to choose between different colours, karats, and plating options to find a piece perfect for you or your significant other. While the varied range is great, it can be a little overwhelming if you’re not sure what these things mean, particularly if it’s your first-time buying gold jewellery. But worry not, we’re here to help! In this article, we explore the differences between types of gold to help you decide which is best.
Gold jewellery is almost never pure gold. Instead, it’s a mixture of metals known as an alloy. Gold is often mixed with silver, copper, palladium, zinc, and nickel to create different colours. The most popular gold colours are yellow, white, rose, and green. Below, we discuss these further.
To create yellow gold, pure gold is alloyed with silver, copper, and zinc. As it’s the purest colour, it requires the least maintenance and is the most hypoallergenic.
White gold is made up of pure gold and a white metal such as platinum or palladium. Occasionally, the metal is also alloyed with nickel and zinc. As white gold is harder than yellow gold, it’s more durable and scratch resistant. This makes it a popular choice for engagement rings and wedding bands. Better still, it’s also more affordable than yellow gold or a pure white metal such as platinum.
Rose gold is currently all the rage. To create this colour, pure gold is mixed with copper and silver. Rose gold is one of the least expensive colours as it is alloyed with inexpensive copper. The inclusion of this metal also makes it more hardwearing than both yellow and white gold.
Green gold, or Electrum, is made up of pure gold alloyed with silver. In some cases, copper is also included in the mixture. The inclusion of silver is what gives the metal its green nuance.
For many years, yellow gold was the colour of choice; however, when the price of gold increased, many people turned to white gold instead. As there is less pure gold in the mixture, white gold is more affordable. Because of this, white gold has been a popular choice for the past 20 years, particularly for engagement rings and wedding bands.
Once you’ve chosen your colour, the next thing to consider is the karats. To find out how many karats a piece of jewellery is, look for the karat mark “k”. This will tell you how much pure gold the jewellery has in it. Another thing to look for is the manufactures trademark. This is there to assure you that the karat content is accurate.
If gold is 100% pure, it will be marked as “24k”. However, 24k jewellery is unusual because pure gold is a soft metal. This means that the jewellery is more likely to scratch or bend over time. To prevent this, gold is often mixed with other metals to make it more hardwearing. The most popular option is 14k jewellery, as this includes a good mixture of pure gold and other metals. If jewellery is under 10k, it’s actually illegal to mark or sell the piece as “gold”.
In its pure state, gold is malleable. Because of this, it is mixed with other metals to increase its strength. Another reason that other metals are added is to enhance its colour. An example of this is rose gold, a mixture of pure gold and copper.
When buying gold jewellery, another thing to consider is the coating options. If you’re looking for a more affordable piece of jewellery, gold coated pieces are easier on the bank balance. Instead of the entire piece being made from gold alloy, a cheaper base metal is coated with gold. To find out what type of gold coating the jewellery has, look for the quality stamp. This stamp will let you know which type of gold coating has been used. Some of the popular options include gold plated, gold overlay, and gold leaf. Below, we discuss these in more detail.
If jewellery is described as gold leaf, the gold has been hammered by hand into thin layers and then been wrapped around a cheaper metal. Typically, 22k or 24k gold is used for this process. Gold leaf jewellery can be recognised by the irregularities caused by its handmade approach.
If jewellery is gold plated, a thin layer of gold has been applied to the surface of the metal. The centre of the jewellery is usually made from brass or stainless steel and is dipped in gold to give the piece a gold-like appearance. To legally be described as gold plated, the gold layer needs to be a minimum of 7 millionths of an inch thick and of at least 10k gold quality. As this is fairly thin, it’s not usual for the gold layer to wear off over time. If this happens, the jewellery will need to be re-plated to restore its gold appearance.
Gold overlay jewellery has a thicker coating of gold than gold plated pieces. This means that the jewellery is more durable over time. To be classed as gold overlay, the gold must be at least 10k but can be lower than 1/20 of the total weight. The base metal is typically stainless steel, brass, or copper. The gold overlay process uses heat and pressure to mix and bond the metals.
Understanding the differences between types of gold is important when buying gold jewellery. Knowing the correct terms will allow you to make an informed decision on which piece is best.