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Gemspedia >> Jewellery >> Precious Metals

Precious Metals

Gold

Long considered the most precious of metals, gold is deeply woven into the very fabric of human culture. It captures our imagination and has inspired numerous legends and myths throughout the course of history. Gold has been treasured, hoarded, coveted and lavishly bestowed upon people, temples and objects of worship. Responsible for creating global currencies, starting wars, toppling empires, mass migrations and more, gold has helped shaped the course of human history—it is a metal that we are inextricably bound to.

 

Untarnishable and impervious to corrosion, it is the most malleable of metals, yet remains miraculously strong. While its rich luster has long influenced the affairs of state and religion, its primary use remains within the realms of personal adornment.

Frequently featuring as an integral part of antique and modern jewelry’s numerous forms, purchasers should be aware of what gold varieties are on offer and why. The following will shed some light on this ancient metal’s application in today’s marketplace.

 

Gold purity

Pure gold is relatively soft and as a consequence has durability problems. Ornate pieces of jewelry can be bent, and expensive gemstones can be lost from their settings. This unacceptable tendency of pure gold has largely given rise to the modern gold we find in the jeweler’s window today.


Virtually all gold featured in jewelry today is alloyed with secondary metals that enhance its everyday durability. These gold alloys are so frequent, that in many countries many people find the color of pure gold peculiar. However, not all gold purities are the same. The different purities of gold alloys used by jewelers give consumers varying options regarding gold color, affordability and durability.

 

Gold purity is measured in karats. While the term karat may sound identical to carat, which is used to measure weight in gemstones, the two terms do not have the same meaning. Karat ratio in gold tells you the percentage or proportion of gold purity. Gold with a higher karat ratio is comparatively more expensive gram for gram when compared to gold with lower karat ratios. Expressed as a ratio of 24 parts, the most frequently seen gold purities are:

  • 22 karat: 91.6% pure gold

  • 18 karat: 75.0% pure gold

  • 14 karat: 58.5% pure gold

  • 10 karat: 41.7% pure gold

Gold pricing

Raw, un-worked gold pricing is based on the karat ratio and the gold weight. For jewelry, we must also take into account additional factors. Diamonds and gemstones must be accounted for, as well as construction techniques that can make a piece of jewelry more durable, more ornate, or even unique. Features such as robust clasps all add to the price of a piece of finished jewelry.

 

Gold sources

Gold is mined in several countries around the globe, but in terms of output, the main sources are South Africa, USA, Australia, Canada, China, Russia, Peru and Indonesia.

 

Gold as an investment

Due to the popularity of gold, it has been used to both purchase and exchange goods for thousands of years. Until the early 1900s, gold reserves formed the basis of the world monetary systems. Even today, a huge proportion of the world’s gold is held in government reserves. When you purchase gold jewelry, although you are not guaranteed that you will ever make a profit on your acquisition, you are assured that you have gained something with an intrinsic value.

 

Gold colors

Gold comes in a number of different colors offering consumers a wide choice when buying this lustrous precious metal:

 

Yellow gold: Displaying a timeless color, this is the most frequently seen gold type. It is alloyed with silver and copper.

 

White gold: White gold can be alloyed white (i.e., pure gold is yellow) with silver, palladium (a precious platinum group metal) or nickel. Most white gold jewelry is also rhodium plated. Rhodium is the most expensive platinum group precious metal (approximately three times more expensive than platinum) and provides a hard, brilliant finish that is unmatched by any other metal. Our rhodium is electroplated and will last 2–3 years with normal wear. However, it is also white underneath, creating true white gold jewelry.

 

Rose gold: Alloyed with copper, this increasingly popular gold type has a striking pinkish rose color.

 

Gold types

While solid gold is the most frequently seen gold type available in the market, buyers should also be aware of the other gold types available, which deliver comparable beauty at different values. Naturally, the higher the gold proportions or weight, the more expensive they are:

 

Gold filled: Also known as gold overlay. This term refers to a gold layer that has been bonded to a support metal. To qualify for use of this term, the gold must be at least 10% of the total weight.

 

Gold plate: Means that a thin layer of gold plating has been bonded to a base metal.

 

Vermeil: Pronounced vur-may, this process derives from the French word for “veneer.” It is also known as onlay, double or silver gilt. It is typically a combination of sterling silver and gold. To be considered vermeil, the gold must also be at least 10 karat and 1.5 micrometers (or greater) in thickness. The original fire-gilding process was developed in France in the 18th century, but today vermeil is mainly produced by electrolysis. The White House has a collection of vermeil tableware kept appropriately in the Vermeil Room.

 

Gold leaf: Ultra-thin gold plating that’s pounded and thinned, then applied to an object.

 

Silver

With a rich history stretching back some 5,000 years, like gold, silver occupies a hallowed place in our collective history. From the age-old Sumerian city of Ur, to the ancient Americas, to Greco-Roman culture and the ancient Far East, silver has been used by nearly all global cultures over the last two millennia.

Sharing much in common with its more glamorous counterpart gold, silver too is most frequently used for personal adornment.

 

Silver purity

Like gold, pure silver or fine silver is relatively soft and malleable. As a result, painstakingly crafted jewelry and other objects can be easily damaged if created from pure silver. As a consequence, silver is commonly alloyed with secondary metals, usually copper, to create a more durable precious metal.


Sterling silver is the standard for beautiful high-quality silver jewelry and other objects d’art. It’s 92.5% pure silver, and is alloyed with secondary metals for added strength and durability. Unlike gold, but like platinum, silver purities are expressed as units of 1,000 parts. The most regularly seen silver purities are:

  • 958: 95.8% pure silver, also known as Britannia silver

  • 925: 92.5% pure silver, also known as sterling silver

Silver pricing

The small amount of copper added to sterling silver has little effect on the value. Instead, the price of silver items is affected by the labor and craftsmanship involved in finishing an item.

 

Platinum

Sixty times rarer than gold, platinum is only found in a few locations worldwide—Russia’s Ural Mountains, South Africa’s Merensky Reef and a few small mines in the USA and Canada. Relatively new to the jewelry market, platinum is fast becoming incredibly popular and is already a bedrock of the contemporary jewelry landscape. Purer, stronger and denser than gold, platinum is considered by many to be the ultimate and most luxurious of all precious metals.

 

Platinum purity

Platinum purity is expressed differently than gold. Instead of expressing purity in ratios of 24 parts, platinum standards are expressed as units of 1,000 parts.

The most regular platinum purities seen are:

  • 950: 95% Pure Platinum

  • 900: 90% Pure Platinum

  • 850: 85% Pure Platinum

Troy ounce

Precious metals such as gold and silver are often sold by the troy ounce. Many people don’t realize that an ounce of gold is about 10% more than the typical ounce found at the grocery store. It is thought that the troy ounce was named after a weight system used in Troyes, France during the Middle Ages. One troy ounce weighs 31.10 grams.


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