How much do you love gold? This is one metal that has been revered and sought after by humankind since we began to inhabit this planet. Gold is usually found very deep within the earth’s surface and it is hard work and expensive to extract it from those depths. Alluvial gold is gold that has been washed up by rivers and is more easily found, but normally, in much smaller quantities.
There are many myths and legends about gold and many more that include it in their moral lessons. Gold appears in the holy books of every religion and even serious scientists are to be found who believe in alien forces coming to earth to mine our gold.
What is gold? It is a metal with some very special qualities, some of which make it perfect for use in jewelry. Gold is considered to be a pure metal. This means that it does not easily mix with other substances or tarnish. In fact, gold will be affected by age and chemicals. Do keep your gold jewelry clean by gently washing it in soapy water. Do not wear your gold jewelry when you swim in chlorinated swimming pools, which could give your gold a sickly greenish tinge.
Gold is very soft. This makes it easy to bend and shape to the form you desire. Being so soft, it can also easily be damaged, so it is usually mixed with one or more other metals, to give it a bit more resistance to damage.
The metals used can affect the color of the gold. Copper will give a reddish tint to the gold, thus we get rose / red or pink gold. Palladium and silver result in white gold, which was only used after 1915. Silver alone results in green gold.
The proportion of gold to other metals determines what we call the karat weight of the gold. ‘24 karats’ means 100% gold. We measure 1000 parts of metal. How much is gold and how much is base metal or impurity? If out of 1000 parts metal, 750 are gold and the remaining 25% base metals, we have 75% gold also called 18k gold or 18/24 parts, which are all ways of saying the same thing. 585 parts of gold per 1000 is 14k gold. The rest would be other metals and impurities. 376 parts of gold per 1000 is 9k gold. The rest is base metals and impurities.
Other common gold weights are 22k, 20k, 15k, 10k, 8k and 3k. In England, the use of 15ct and 9ct (as they spelled karat), was discontinued in the early 1930’s. Finding jewelry marked as such will help you to date it to the period before 1932.
Different karat gold has been used through the ages and by different people. Naturally, the higher the karat, the more expensive the item. To prevent cheating and ensure that the customer gets what he is paying for, a system of hallmarking was developed. The use of hallmarks is different in different countries and at different times. During the Tudor period in Britain, the Goldsmiths Union had strict laws that gold had to be above 20k, but needless to say, many jewelers used lower standards, thus cheating their customers out of the value of their jewelry. Today, the world is moving to a unified system with many countries signing up to comply with universal standards.
Hallmarks are a mixed blessing. They can tell us a lot about antique jewelry. However, they could be copied or misused and thereby cause confusion. The French have been fastidious about hallmarking their jewelry for a long time. Rams heads, cockerels, eagle heads will assure us not only of the metal purity, but will help us to date the item.
Gold has many uses in our world, ranging from science and medicine to construction. It has been used to make beautiful objects for centuries. Sometimes it is used alone and sometimes it is set with gems.
Some gems are shown off to better advantage by yellow gold and some are perceived to be shown to advantage by white metal.
Many people consider that diamonds can be better appreciated in white metal. This was especially true when gas or candle light was used, before the advent of electrical lighting. Diamonds at this time were set in silver. Since silver tarnishes very easily and people didn’t want black marks on their skin or clothing, the silver was backed with a layer of gold. Much antique jewelry can still be found with a clearly visible layer of gold and then one of silver in which the diamonds are set.
The variety and choices available to the buyer are enormous. Do you want antique or new gold? Do you want gold jewelry that includes gemstones? Do you want traditional yellow gold or white gold? Do you want a signed gold jewel? Your choices are tremendous, but remember that in all likelihood, you might be wearing your gold jewelry for many years. Perhaps you will leave it to your daughter and grand-daughter, so think carefully about what you want to buy.
Remember that so long as you buy great quality, your gold jewelry will always go up in value. Gold jewelry, especially antique gold jewelry has proved to be a great investment. I believe it is a lot more lucrative and a lot more fun than the stock exchange.