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 jewelry and structures to portray status and wealth. Today, gold is a very popular choice for engagement rings, necklaces, chains, earrings and other fine jewelry.
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 jewelry dating all the way back to 4,600 BC.
Gold has been interwoven with jewelry, 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 jewelry trends as a leading metal of choice for many types of jewelry.
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 jewelry perspective, 14K gold and 18K gold continue to hold value as durable, stylish and high-quality jewels.
Gold Jewelry 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 jewelry is gold. Gold karat is expressed in 24ths, making 24k gold the highest karat gold. It has a rich and luxurious gold-yellow color, but unlike 14k or 18k gold, it’s far too malleable for everyday wear. If you're unsure what karat your jewelry 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 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 jewelry must be accompanied by a maker's mark or registered trademark.
Real gold jewelry 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 jewelry 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 jewelry 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 Color of Gold
Although it’s true that the color of pure gold is yellow, gold jewelry or objects are almost always affected by the added alloys. The metal they are alloyed with changes their color 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 jewelry 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 jewelry 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 color 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 jewelry 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 color. In order to give white gold jewelry its signature color, pure gold is alloyed with a mixture of nickel, palladium and silver, plus other whitening alloys. white gold jewelry 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-colored tint in your white gold. This can be a sign that your jewelry needs replating to restore its original whiteness. We offer replating through our local jewelry 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 jewelry is created by using a copper alloy. The more copper in the alloy, the rosier the hue. Rose gold jewelry 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 color 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 jewelry 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 center diamonds. All designs in 14k white gold use 14k white gold ring heads which have the strength and durability required to keep a center 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.
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 jewelry 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 jewelry, though prized and worn in some cultures.
18 karat = 75.0% gold
Considered to be the luxury end of fine jewelry.
14 karat = 58.3% gold
Ideal for fine jewelry, 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 jewelry are sure to impress. Here are some factors to consider when deciding which to choose:
- 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
- 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 jewelry can tarnish over time. Gold pieces 14k and above will typically maintain their shine and rich color as long as they are properly cared for. Lower karat gold, such as 10k and below, may tarnish naturally over time. Expert jewelry 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 jewelry whenever you're cooking, cleaning, showering or engaging in other potentially damaging activities.
Gold Jewelry Buying Tips
Searching for solid gold jewelry? To purchase durable, stylish gold, make sure to visit jewelers 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 color and karat that best fits your style and budget.
Gold Jewelry Care Tips
Prolonged or repeated exposure to chlorine or other chemicals in cleaning products can harm gold jewelry. We recommend that you remove your jewelry when gardening or cleaning to reduce abrasions and prolong the luster. To clean gold jewelry, use a solution of warm water and detergent-free soap with a soft-bristled brush. Then, polish it with a specialized jewelry polishing cloth or jewelry cleaning solution. When not worn, store your gold pieces in soft cloth bags or the original box to help prevent scratches.
Next: Learn More About Other Metals
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