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The World's Earliest Jewelry Treasure is Still Sought Today

Aug 18, 2008
To the Incas, it was called the "tears of the sun." Homer recognized its worth as "the glory of immortals." The earliest Egyptian dynasty first successfully mined and established its value. One of the earliest metals known to humankind, gold is a part of nearly every culture and civilization. Its characteristics of luster and brilliance, as well as its resistance to tarnish, have long been appreciated by those who work with gold and those who admire its qualities.

Upon discovery by civilizations around the globe, gold has served as an important element to developing cultures. And while other metals typically occur in ore-bodies which must be smelted for use, gold occurs virtually in a pure state. Nearly every culture has established gold as a material of worth, symbolizing beauty and power. In ancient times it was used in idol-making and shrines, as well as in personal adornment. Prospecting for gold has been a worldwide effort, dating back thousands of years. A desirable commodity, gold even precedes actual money itself.

The intrinsic appeal of gold remains today. Still possessing a universal appeal, gold is treasured for its value as a metal and in the form of ornamentation, such as gold jewelry. With its flexibility to be formed into nearly any shape, jewelry artisans are able to create a dazzling array of designs - from tiny strands to ring shapes to bold accent pieces.

A pure substance that does not tarnish or react with skin, gold is a popular choice for jewelry wearers. If gold jewelry does cause an allergic reaction or staining on skin or clothing, it can most often be attributed to the metals that may have been combined with the gold. In such situations, gold is not at a pure 24 karats and instead, has been mixed with other metals to create an alloy which is durable and more practical for daily jewelry wear. This process also lowers the cost of a gold jewelry, making it more affordable for the masses. Metals are also added to change the color of gold. For example, palladium or nickel added to gold creates white gold. Copper produces a pink or rose tint and silver gives a greenish cast to gold. Individuals with allergies to nickel or other metals should choose jewelry that possess a high gold content, such as 18K or 22K gold jewelry.

To determine the purity of gold jewelry, examine its markings. The "K" which appears on a piece of jewelry, such as 18K or 10K, is a system used to describe the percentage of pure gold an item contains. A higher karat number indicates a higher percentage of gold in the jewelry piece:

24K= pure gold or 24 parts gold
18K= 75% gold, or 18 parts gold combined with 6 parts of additional metals
14K= 58.3% gold, or 14 parts gold combined with 10 parts of additional metals
12K= 50% gold, or 12 parts gold combined with 12 parts of additional metals
10K= 41.7% gold, or 10 parts gold combined with 14 parts of additional metals (10K gold is the U.S. minimum karat that can be considered gold)

European markings for gold are marked with numbers such as: 750, which indicates a piece is 18K or 75% gold. 14K gold appears as 585 (58.5%) and 10K gold is marked 417 (41.7%). Gold jewelry should also be accompanied by a trademark that identifies that maker.

Additional tips for purchasing gold jewelry:
1. When purchasing gold as an investment, choose the purest form you can afford. For gold jewelry, a less pure form may be chosen when expense is a consideration.
2. Always inquire as to the purity of gold used in the jewelry before making a purchase.
3. When purchasing gold jewelry containing insets such as diamonds, rubies or other gemstones, inquire also about the purity and quality of the stones used.
4. When purchasing white gold, consider asking for gold mixed with palladium as it does not create allergic reactions.
5. Gold plated jewelry is not as durable as other gold jewelry. Consisting of a fine layer of gold, it can tarnish easily with frequent wear.
About the Author
Lewis Jewelers is proud to carry the full line of Pandora Jewelry. Pandora bracelets, Pandora charms and Pandora beads are only a part of the collection. For more information, Lewis Jewelers, 2000 West Stadium Blvd., Ann Arbor, Michigan, 48103, 877-88-LEWIS or visit the website.
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