Gold has been treasured for its natural beauty and radiance. For this reason, many cultures have imagined gold to represent the sun.
Yellow gold is still the most popular colour, but today gold is available in a diverse palette. The process of alloying—mixing other metals with pure 24 karat gold—gives malleable gold more durability, but can also be used to change its colour.
White gold is created through alloying pure gold with white metals such as palladium or silver. In addition it is usually plated with rhodium to create a harder surface with a brighter shine. White gold has become the overwhelming choice for wedding bands in the US.
The inclusion of copper results in the soft pink complexion of rose gold while the more unusual colours such as blue and purple can be obtained from the addition of patinas or oxides on the alloy surface. Black gold for example derives its colour from cobalt oxide.
The weight of gold is measured in troy ounces (1 troy ounce = 31.1034768 grams), however its purity is measured in ‘karats’.
‘Karatage’ is the measurement of purity of gold alloyed with other metals. 24 Karat is pure gold with no other metals. Lower karatages contain less gold; 18 karat gold contains 75 per cent gold and 25 per cent other metals, often copper or silver.
The minimum karatage for an item to be called gold varies by country. In the US, 10 karat is the legal minimum accepted standard of gold karatage, 14 karat being the most popular. In France, the UK, Austria, Portugal and Ireland, 9 karat is the lowest karatage permitted to be called gold. In Denmarkand Greece, 8 karat is the legal minimum standard.
Fineness is another way of expressing the precious metal content of jewellery, and represents the purity in parts per thousand. When stamped on jewellery, usually this is stated without the decimal point
Gold can be worked into nearly any shape, including tiny strands that do not break easily. One ounce of gold can even be hammered into an ultra thin sheet that’s ten feet square. Gold can be manipulated nearly any way the artisan desires.
The three largest markets for gold jewellery, China, India and the US, each accord the metal a unique cultural significance. Acquiring jewellery is connected to celebrations, relationships, self-expression and hopes for the future in these countries.