Saturday, June 06, 2009

Why is gold so popular?

Gold... the name in itself is precious, and beautiful...

Gold in its pure form is yellow in color and is called PURE GOLD or FINE GOLD. Its purity represented in KARAT.

WHY IS GOLD ALLOYED: It is alloyed or mixed with other metals in a consistent blend for the following most important reasons:

To achieve the strength or stability in gold
  • Pure gold is very soft and jewelry made in this kind can easily bend and get misshaped. Fine work such as filigree is usually not recommended in pure gold because it can bend out of shape to irreparable extents fairly easily

  • Stones set in pure gold can easily fall out because of the softness of the metal holding them. Most commonly plain gold jewelry is made in 22 K in India and 14K or 18 K in the US.

  • To make a product in higher karat gold, the thickness of the product has to be considerably increased to increase its stability. Thus you will land up paying more for the same design made in higher karat gold.

To achieve color in gold

Gold in its purest form is yellow. Gold is often alloyed with other metals such as silver, copper, zinc, palladium etc to achieve a whiter or paler look. “White” gold is an extremely pale color of gold which looks almost white. This is usually created in 18 K gold or lesser purity of gold.
  • Normally the bright yellow of pure gold reflects off beautifully on darker skin tones. This makes 22 K yellow gold a popular choice in India as well as Africa. However, pale yellow colored jewelry looks beautiful on most paler or lighter colored skins and hence becomes a popular metal in the US, Italy and Australia. White gold is now a popular choice all over the world due to its publicity and resemblance to platinum.

  • Other colors in gold are pink gold, purple, black, green and white. These colors depending on the properties of each are used to enhance design without compensating on the value of the product.

Workability increases when the gold is alloyed
  • It is simpler to create solder (material used to join two pieces of gold) for a lower karat of gold rather than struggle with achieving the purity of 24 K gold.

  • For a craftsman it is easier to work on lower Karat of gold most of the time if the product has to be hand crafted. He has to be much more attentive so as not to ruin his work when working with fine gold.

  • For these above reasons, the making or labor charges may be lesser for a lower karat product in gold.

The cost of metal in a product is reduced considerably
  • If in a 18K gold product, the value of metal used is $ 750, then the same design made in 24K gold will be $ 1000. The same design in 9K gold will be $ 375 only. Thus in a fixed budget one can get more if they are willing to compensate on the karat value of the metal.

  • Since the weight of gold is more than that of silver or copper, (which is the most common alloying metal for making jewelry) hence the mass of 10gm pure gold will be lesser than that of 9 K gold.
  • This means that a 10 gm gold bangle in 24 K is smaller to look at than the same design same weight in 9 K gold.
  • Due to its softness, the higher the karat of gold, the faster it gets scratches thus requires more frequent polishing and hence the loss of precious material. This wear and tear makes the product look older sooner.

ABOUT THE ALLOYS

Pure or fine gold is 24 K and theoretically this means that the metal has 100% gold content in it.
But for making jewelry, an example of 18 K gold in terms of “fineness” is the gold content expressed in 750 parts per thousand (75.0% gold). The remaining 25% of the metals in this alloy can vary depending upon the property desired.

The percentage of gold in various alloys is given below (the commonly used Karat values are marked in bold).

  1. 24 K = 24/24 * 100 = 100 % Gold; no other metal
  2. 23 K = 23/24 * 100 = 95.83 % Gold; 4.17 % other metals
  3. 22 K = 22/24 * 100 = 91.66 % Gold; 8.34 % other metals
  4. 21 K = 21/24 * 100 = 87.5 % Gold; 12.5 % other metals
  5. 20 K = 20/24 * 100 = 83.33 % Gold; 16.67 % other metals
  6. 19 K = 19/24 * 100 = 79.16 % Gold; 20.84 % other metals
  7. 18 K = 18/24 * 100 = 75 % Gold; 25 % other metals
  8. 17 K = 17/24 * 100 = 70.83 % Gold; 29.17 % other metals
  9. 16 K = 16/24 * 100 = 66.66 % Gold; 33.34 % other metals
  10. 15 K = 15/24 * 100 = 62.5 % Gold; 37.5 % other metals
  11. 14 K = 14/24 * 100 = 58.33 % Gold; 41.67 % other metals
  12. 13 K = 13/24 * 100 = 54.16 % Gold; 45.84 % other metals
  13. 12 K = 12/24 * 100 = 50 % Gold; 50 % other metals
  14. 11 K = 11/24 * 100 = 45.83 % Gold; 54.17 % other metals
  15. 10 K = 10/24 * 100 = 41.66 % Gold; 58.34 % other metals
  16. 9 K = 9/24 * 100 = 37.5 % Gold; 62.5 % other metals
  17. 8 K = 8/24 * 100 = 33.33 % Gold; 66.67 % other metals

Most jewelry worldwide is marked with the caratage or fineness. This may be part of a Hallmark on the jewelry. To read more about Hallmarking and Assaying of gold, please click here.

Something very interesting about gold alloys is that with varying quantity or percentage of alloying metals used, the physical and chemical properties of that alloy can be very cleverly manipulated. A very common use of this fact is that 18 K white gold and 18 K yellow gold has the same content of gold in them, but the color changes. 18 K pink gold is harder to work with than 18 K yellow gold. To read about these differences and how one can use these in their jewelry, click here.
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