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What Is Gold?

People love gold—and they have for a very long time. While the gold adornments preferred by Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun (aka: King Tut) circa 1323 BC. differ from those worn by today’s style influencers, gold is as prized now as it was then. It’s no wonder that ancient cultures all over the world forged gold into jewellery and structures to portray status and wealth. Today, gold is a very popular choice for engagement rings, necklaces, chains, earrings and other fine jewellery.

Brief Gold History

People have worn gold for centuries. The precious metal is mentioned throughout history, having been associated with civilizations including The Incas, Ancient Egyptians, Sumerians in Mesopotamia with earrings dating back to 2600-2500 BC, Ancient Greeks and more recently discovered Bulgarian gold jewellery dating all the way back to 4,600 BC.

Gold has been interwoven with jewellery, statues, amulets, currency and other tenants of civilizations around the world throughout known history.

In more recent years, gold’s rich history has continued throughout the world. The California Gold Rush of the mid-1800s was kicked off when James W. Marshall found gold in the state. Gold has continued to dominate jewellery trends as a leading metal of choice for many types of jewellery.

The metal’s rarity and prolonged value make gold a popular choice for investing. Gold’s value is so honored that countries including Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Japan, Great Britain and even The United States used an economic system called the gold standard as a monetary system. Though it’s not used anymore, the gold standard was a system in which a country’s currency was directly tied to a set amount of gold.

Today, gold is still valued financially and aesthetically as it has been in centuries past. From an investing perspective, gold is still valuable due to its changing price based on weight. Many investors choose to purchase solid gold as a financial investment. From a jewellery perspective, 14K gold and 18K gold continue to hold value as durable, stylish and high-quality jewels.

Gold Jewellery Purity

As the most malleable of all precious metals, gold is an excellent choice when crafting designs with very intricate details. Plus, it’s resistant to rust, tarnish and corrosion. Pure gold is too soft for everyday wear, so it’s alloyed with a mixture of silver, copper and a trace of zinc, to give it strength and durability. This hardens the final product enough to last for many generations.

Karat, denoted by a number followed by “k”, indicates purity, or how much of the metal in a piece of jewellery is gold. Gold karat is expressed in 24ths, making 24k gold the highest karat gold. It has a rich and luxurious gold-yellow colour, but unlike 14k or 18k gold, it’s far too malleable for everyday wear. If you're unsure what karat your jewellery is, you can find out by looking for a number followed by a lower case “k” stamped somewhere on the piece.

We sell yellow, white and rose gold in 14k and 18k. These are considered real, solid gold jewels because they do not have a base metal with gold plating on top. Solid gold including 14k and 18k pieces are suitable for everyday wear.

Gold Hallmarks

Gold is commonly stamped with what’s known as a hallmark. The hallmark indicates the amount of pure gold content, and sometimes denotes the date of completion and country of origin. And under federal law, gold jewellery must be accompanied by a maker's mark or registered trademark.

Real gold jewellery will be stamped with a number followed by the letter “k” to indicate its fineness. It may also have a maker’s mark or even year engraved on the piece. Symbols such as “GF” and “KP” indicate that your piece is not solid gold but instead gold plated or filled.

Blue Nile Gold

We carry jewellery that’s crafted in both 18k and 14k gold. Our 18k gold is an alloy of 75% gold with other metals to make it strong enough for everyday wear, and our 14k gold is an alloy of 58.3% gold and other metals. The minimum karat that is allowed to be sold as gold jewellery in the U.S. is 10k—an alloy of 41.7% pure gold. If you’re one of our European customers, you may be accustomed to a different gold karat scale. 585 is equivalent to our 14k gold, while 750 is the same as our 18k gold.

The Colour of Gold

Although it’s true that the colour of pure gold is yellow, gold jewellery or objects are almost always affected by the added alloys. The metal they are alloyed with changes their colour to a variety of shades depending on:

  • The type of metal alloys included
  • The percentage of each metal alloy
  • The metals used to alloy gold, which include: zinc, copper, nickel, iron, cadmium, aluminum, silver, platinum and palladium

Our fine gold jewellery comes in 3 colors: yellow gold, white gold and rose gold. These varying types of gold are each valued for their unique beauty and lasting durability.

What is Yellow Gold?

A mixture of silver, copper, pure gold (and a trace of zinc) gives yellow gold jewellery its rich shine. Although the percentages of each metal used to create the alloy vary, all formulas start with 75% pure gold for 18k gold and 58.3% for 14k gold. The result gives off a classic warm glow that makes an especially good setting for lower diamond colour grades with a faint yellow tint.

If you're interested in 14k yellow gold it’s important to note the difference in durability and hardness. 18k is softer and will therefore show scratches more readily. 14k is harder which makes it a little more resistant to scratching.

Yellow gold has been a popular jewellery choice for centuries and maintains its draw today.

What is White Gold?

White gold is yellow gold with an alloy plating that gives it a silvery-white colour. In order to give white gold jewellery its signature colour, pure gold is alloyed with a mixture of nickel, palladium and silver, plus other whitening alloys. white gold jewellery then undergoes another step in the process known as plating. Plating is when the base gold metal is covered with a layer of another metal, which in the case of white gold, is a plating of rhodium.

While rhodium plating is relatively long wearing, some occasional replating may be required. It’s not uncommon after a few years to see a slight champagne-coloured tint in your white gold. This can be a sign that your jewellery needs replating to restore its original whiteness. We offer replating through our local jewellery stores.

White gold is considered an affordable alternative to platinum. It is incredibly popular today and was also a common choice for rings in the 1920s. Many vintage-inspired engagement rings and modern styles are available in white gold. White gold is real gold, it is just processed differently than yellow or rose gold.

What is Rose Gold?

The romantic pink hue of rose gold jewellery is created by using a copper alloy. The more copper in the alloy, the rosier the hue. Rose gold jewellery has the same amount of pure gold as yellow or white gold. What’s different is the ratio of other metals that make up the remaining percentage of the alloy mix. Rose gold is a beautiful and unique choice for engagement rings, and its modern-vintage appeal has been a hot trend in the last few years. The preference of one karat over another comes down to whether people want a lighter (18k) or slightly deeper (14k) rose colour for their setting or band.

Rose gold is considered lower maintenance than white gold as it doesn’t need to be replated. Rose gold’s romantic hues come from its alloy mixture alone, so there is no plating that could wear away. Instead, rose gold’s pinkish tones will last for years with regular jewellery care.

The 1920s also saw a rose gold push and the metal has seen a resurgence in recent years. For a truly romantic look, pair rose gold with a heart-shaped diamond ring.

What Type of Gold Does Blue Nile Use for Ring Heads?

For yellow gold and rose gold settings, we use platinum ring heads to secure centre diamonds. All designs in 14k white gold use 14k white gold ring heads which have the strength and durability required to keep a centre stone safe. 14k white gold is a very popular option with our customers as it has a similar look to more expensive platinum settings, but a more affordable price tag.

explore all gold jewellery

How is the Price of Gold Determined?

Gold price changes day by day, with the price per ounce fluctuating. Gold is traded on a public exchange and therefore the price is subject to many external influences. That’s why the price of gold jewellery is largely dependent on three main factors:

  • Purity of gold used (the karat), combined with the physical weight of the item
  • Current market value of gold
  • Detail of the design and craftsmanship of the piece

Gold Karat Chart

24 karat = 100% gold

22 karat = 91.7% gold
Both 24k and 22k are considered too soft for fine jewellery, though prized and worn in some cultures.

18 karat = 75.0% gold
Considered to be the luxury end of fine jewellery.

14 karat = 58.3% gold
Ideal for fine jewellery, balancing wearability and value.

10 karat = 41.7% gold
Not available at Blue Nile.

14k vs 18k Gold, What Karat is Best?

The gold karat that’s right for you may be a personal preference or a matter of budget. Both 14k and 18k jewellery are sure to impress. Here are some factors to consider when deciding which to choose:

14k Gold

  • Good balance of durability and price because of the higher percentage of alloys used
  • Our most popular choice
  • In yellow gold, may appear a little less yellow than 18k gold

18k Gold

  • Luxurious choice with a precious appeal
  • Slightly softer and less durable than 14k because of the higher amount of malleable pure gold in the alloy
  • In yellow gold, may appear yellower than 14k yellow gold

14k and 18k Gold Similarities

  • Both are suitable for frequent wear
  • In white gold and rose gold, fineness differences are not as visually apparent

Does Gold Tarnish?

Yes, gold jewellery can tarnish over time. Gold pieces 14k and above will typically maintain their shine and rich colour as long as they are properly cared for. Lower karat gold, such as 10k and below, may tarnish naturally over time. Expert jewellery cleaning can repair tarnished gold back to its original shine.

Exposing gold to corrosive chemicals, chlorine, lotions, soaps or household cleaners may result in unwanted tarnish. It is best to remove your gold jewellery whenever you're cooking, cleaning, showering or engaging in other potentially damaging activities.

Gold Jewellery Buying Tips

Searching for solid gold jewellery? To purchase durable, stylish gold, make sure to visit jewellers you can trust. Check any stamps of the piece you're interested in purchasing to ensure it meets the fineness you're searching for. Choose the gold colour and karat that best fits your style and budget.

Gold Jewellery Care Tips

Prolonged or repeated exposure to chlorine or other chemicals in cleaning products can harm gold jewellery. We recommend that you remove your jewellery when gardening or cleaning to reduce abrasions and prolong the lustre. To clean gold jewellery, use a solution of warm water and detergent-free soap with a soft-bristled brush. Then, polish it with a specialized jewellery polishing cloth or jewellery cleaning solution. When not worn, store your gold pieces in soft cloth bags or the original box to help prevent scratches.

Gold Facts

Pyrite is a mineral that’s often mistaken for gold. It has a similar colour to gold but it will break rather than bend.

The Ancient Egyptians loved gold so much that they filled their pyramids with it. Tutankhamun’s pyramid included a sarcophagus with an innermost chamber that was 240 pounds of gold. That doesn't even include the golden walls of the chamber itself!

Gold karat weight popularity can differ in parts of the world. While 14k and 18k are popular throughout many countries, other parts of the world prefer to wear higher karat pieces. South Asian gold jewellery is often a higher fineness.

NASA loves gold, but not for jewellery. The precious metal is valued for many applications in space. Satellites often carry gold-coated sheets that provide protection from solar heat while astronaut helmets feature a visor coated in gold to protect from solar radiation. In addition, NASA uses gold to ensure their satellite electronics communicate effectively without corrosion to key components.

USGS estimates that 244,000 metric tons of gold have been discovered. The bulk of this gold has been discovered in China, Australia and South Africa.

You can wear your gold and eat it too in certain settings. Food-grade gold flakes are considered edible and may be featured in dishes at luxury restaurants.

Next: Learn More About Other Metals

Have A Question?

Contact us by phone at 00800-2583-6453 from Spain, 0800-098-8541 from the United Kingdom, or 00353-1-899-1351 for all other EU countries or email at serviceuk@bluenile.co.uk.
In addition, Live Chat is available during most business hours.