A Comprehensive Guide to Buying Gold Jewelry
When shopping for fine jewelry, there's a ton of information to digest. If gold is your choice of metal, do you want white, pink, yellow, green? What does karats mean? What's the difference between 14k or 24k? Why should I care? What's gold fill or plated gold? We wanted to give you a clear, comprehensive guide to answer all your gold questions, so you can make the right choice for your budget and lifestyle.
What is a "karat"?
Karat is defined as "a measure of the purity of gold, pure gold being 24 karats".
Since 24k gold is the purest form of gold, anything less than 24k is actually considered an "alloy". An alloy is a mixture of various metals. Karats are used to grade the purity of said alloys. The lower the karat, the less pure gold is present in the mixture. Depending on what other metals are present in an alloy can change things like durability, affordability and even color. You still with us?
Here's a bit of a breakdown - to be considered gold in the US, the content of a gold alloy has to be at least 9k which is 37.5% gold, with the rest being composed of other metals. Going up from there, the most common karats are 10k (at 41.7%), 14k (at 58.3%), 18k (at 75%) and 22k (at 91.7%) with 24k being 99.9% pure gold.
How does karat affect color?
The higher percentage of gold, the more intense of a yellow color it will have. The other metals present in an alloy also determine the color. Pink or rose gold, for example, gets its lovely rose color by the presence of copper in the alloy. White gold can get its color from the inclusion of nickel, silver, zinc or palladium (Lackadazee uses palladium white gold exclusively) in an alloy. Many people associate white gold with the beautiful bright white color you may see in white gold pieces at contemporary jewelry stores. White gold in its raw form, however, is actually a yellowish gray and only gets its iconic, bright white gold look due to a process called rhodium plating. It's important to note that rhodium plating takes maintenance, and generally speaking, white gold jewelry with this treatment needs attention every 1-2 years to maintain its color.
Plating & Gold-Fill vs. Solid Gold
You can buy gold in three-forms; plate, fill or solid. "Plating" is when a thin layer of gold is "plated" to a piece of jewelry using electricity. The issue with plated jewelry is eventually the thin layer of gold will wear off, leaving you with whatever metal is underneath. Plating often leaves you unable to or not wanting to wear your jewelry anymore which, in the long run, isn't great for the environment or your pocket book.
Gold-fill is when a layer of gold covers a base metal core (sometimes brass or sterling silver) by a machine. Gold-fill is marketed as an affordable option for the same look as solid gold. One problem with gold-fill is it does not hold the same heirloom value as solid gold as it is simply a layer of gold instead of a solid piece of gold. Eventually, although it may take years or even decades, the top layer of gold will rub off, leaving you with whatever the core metal was in the jewelry. The recycling process for gold plated jewelry is also chemically intensive, requiring the use nitric acid, making it incredibly difficult to recycle and reuse.
There is one alternative to solid gold we love, however, as it is a more affordable and sustainable option to it's plating and gold fill counterparts.
Vermeil is the process of plating solid sterling silver with a thick layer of 10k-24k gold. After the gold eventually weathers away, a beautiful and durable jewelry piece will still exist in sterling silver.
Do you have any other questions on gold?
We hope this article has been informative and takes away the mystery of purchasing gold! We love what we do, so please don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, comments or concerns you might have!
Stay gold, ya'll.