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All Gold Jewelry is Not Created Equal

Dec 7, 2007
Gold has been a precious commodity for thousand of years. The uses for gold extend far beyond just jewelry. Great empires have risen and fallen based on gold and has historically been a symbol of power and wealth. Gold has remained a universal currency and a fuel for global trade.

Beyond its use as a universal currency, pure gold has become a standard ingredient some of our most complex modern technologies. Our most sophisticated computers use gold in the production of printed circuit boards. Since it does not corrode and is chemically stable, pure gold is used to plate critical electrical and electronic connections in space flight applications. Even the seals used in the oxygen systems of the space shuttle are plated in gold.

The purity of gold is measured in carats. When applied to gold, carat refers to the amount of gold present. Twenty four carat gold is one hundred percent gold. The purity of platinum and other precious metals is also measured in carats. Do not confuse the term carat as it applies to gemstones like diamonds. Gemstone carats refer to the weight of the stone and are not a reflection of purity. Some experts do not consider gold ten carat gold to be gold. The claim is that the presence of other metals so dilutes the gold content, jewelry made from ten carat gold is no better than costume jewelry.

When applied to the value of gold jewelry, the carat weight is critical. There is a big difference between twenty four carat and ten carat weight gold. Ten carat gold jewelry contains approximately forty two percent gold. The remaining forty eight percent of the weight is comprised of other metal alloys such as copper. Pure twenty four carat gold is rarely used in jewelry making since it too soft to be durable. Alloying the gold with other base metals produces a harder material that is much better suited to jewelry applications.

There are strict criteria in place that controls the marking of gold jewelry but the rule is always buyer beware. As consumers, we do not have a reliable way to know whether a ring is ten carats or fourteen. Since gold that is ten carats or less has been alloyed with other metals, ten carat gold is more likely to blacken or otherwise change color and tarnish. Whether a low carat jewelry piece will discolor over time is largely a function of the type of alloy that has been added to the gold.

Popular Black Hills jewelry starts out as 24 carat gold bullion. The alloying process does reduce the carat weight and purity of the gold but the artistry and unique designs more than makes up the lower carat weight. The carat weight of Black Hills gold jewelry can range between 10 and 14 carats depending on the other metals that are added during the alloying process.

The processes after alloying include molding and solder assembly. Then the pieces are finished by artisans who add the fine etching done to achieve the unique look that this type of jewelry famous. Having owned various pieces of Black Hills gold, I have never had a problem with discoloration. The distinctive colors or pink and green are the result of combining gold with exact amounts of copper and silver.

White gold is also produced by a process of alloying. The base gold is combined, nickel, silver or palladium. Resembling platinum, white gold is usually plated with a thin coat of rhodium. Again, it is buyer beware, since white gold is sometimes sold as platinum. Platinum is very expensive and will have a heavier feel to it than gold.
About the Author
Mitch Endick is a short article writer for the popular jewelry site: http://www.jewelrysalesandservice.com. He provides informative advice on buying gold, jewelry, watches, and gemstones.
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