Beautiful, durable gold is the world’s original artifact and the perfect heirloom. It has been revered in every human culture and has been associated with gods, immortality and the earliest notions of personal adornment. King Tutankhamen’s tomb contained the largest collection of gold in the world. Finally, because gold is portable, private and permanent, the world’s first currency, created in 700 B.C., was made of gold coins. This marked the beginning of a monetary standard that made the world’s economy possible.
Gold is an ideal metal for the fabrication of jewellery, not just because of its natural beauty and lustre, but because of its resistance to oxidation and corrosion. As the most maleable and ductile of the known metals, gold is easily worked, using techniques that range from simple hammering and carving to filigreeing, granulation and millgraining.
A gift of gold has become established as an important custom throughout the world, marking occasions such as anniversaries, weddings, Valentine’s day, Christmas and birthdays. And, of course, it is an essential part of every woman’s wardrobe.
Pure gold, known as 24 karat gold, has a bright yellow color. It is 100% gold. But pure gold, while extremely malleable, is too soft to withstand everyday wear. In order to harden it, gold is mixed with other metals, called alloys, including silver, copper and zinc.
18 karat gold is 75% gold and 25% alloys.
14 karat gold is 58.3% gold and 41.7% alloys.
10 karat gold is 41.7% gold and 58.3% alloys.
9 karat gold is 37.5% gold and 62.5 alloys.
Alloys can also serve to alter the color of gold. Gleaming white gold is a favorite for bridal jewellery, and is created by using whitening alloys such as nickel, silver or Palladium. Because white gold retains a yellowish color, it is usually coated with rhodium, which might wear off over time. Periodic replating will restore your jewellery’s whiteness.
Rose gold, traditionally used for special-edition watches and now an emerging trend in fine jewellery, is created by increasing the amount of copper. Depending on the amount used, rose gold can range from a light pink to a rich, reddish or even a brownish color.
Platinum is the elite metal of the jewellery world. It has the highest resistance to corrosion and tarnish, and will never chip or splinter. Even when platinum scratches, the metal doesn’t wear away, but is simply displaced. Most of the world’s most famous diamonds, including the Hope, are set in platinum. From a presentation point of view, the pure, white sheen of platinum accentuates the brilliance and sparkle of diamonds. From a practical point of view, platinum’s density and weight make it more durable than other metals, so it holds precious gems firmly and securely.
Platinum is also remarkably pliable. Just one gram can be drawn to produce a fine wire of over one mile long. This makes it possible to create extremely intricate, yet durable designs, such as mesh pieces.Platinum is precious not only because of its beauty, durability, pliability and density, but because it of its rarity. Platinum is 30 times rarer than gold. There is very little platinum on this earth and it is found in very few places around the world.
Platinum, in jewellery, is usually 90%-95% pure, with 10%-5% usually consisting of one of the other platinum group metals – iridium, palladium or ruthenium. It is marked 900 Plat, 950 Plat, Plat or Pt.
Palladium is a new form of 18 karat white gold that uses palladium, one of the platinum group metals, as a whitening alloy.
Palladium has been used as a jewellery metal off and on for decades – it was first used for jewellery when platinum was declared a strategic metal and reserved for military use in 1939. In 2005, companies began to rediscover palladium as an ideal substitute for nickel in white gold. Until recently white gold contained nickel, which accounted for its bright white color. But nickel is a proven allergen, and has been banned for use in jewellery in many countries.
Palladium is the perfect alloy for white gold because, as one of the four platinum group metals, it has the purity of platinum and an even whiter color. Unlike nickel, palladium is hypoallergenic. It is naturally silver-white, without the need for any other whitening alloy. It is malleable and therefore easy to work with, and lightweight by comparison to platinum (palladium is 44% lighter than platinum). This makes it highly wearable. Best of all, palladium makes gold more durable, which means stronger settings and greater scratch resistance.