Part 1: All That Glitters… is it gold?

by | Jul 3, 2018 | Jewellery

Lesson 101.1

Are you confused about gold? What are all the carats about? What is solid gold and what is real gold? What is gold vermeil?And does it make a difference when the description says 18ct, or 24ct gold plated?

So let’s clear a few things up here so we understand what we’re dealing with. As they say, ‘all that glitters is not gold’.

Did you know, in times past – times we refer to as ‘days of yore’ – there were people trying to create gold instead of going to great lengths to find it or dig it up. This attempt is known as Alchemy.

Alchemy is the scientific and philosophical endeavour to create gold from other substances – mostly from metals such as lead.

In ancient times gold was viewed as the purest,most desirable metal. For the alchemist, it represented the perfection of all matter on any level, including that of the mind, spirit, and soul.But with the emergence of the periodic table in the late 1800’s, and the understanding that gold is an element, it became clear that gold simply cannot be created. 

According to dictionary.com:

Alchemy is the medieval forerunner of chemistry, concerned with the transmutation of matter, in particular with attempts to convert base metals into gold or find a universal elixir.

Elemental gold is pure gold, with nothing else added to it. Refined, this is known as 24carat gold. It’s so soft and malleable though that it can be rolled out into a foil thin enough to actually see through.

The color of 24 carat gold isbeautiful, brilliant, saturated, over-the-top. But as you might guess, it’s not an ideal metal for crafting durable items of jewelry. It would too easily lose its shape with wear and tear, and stones wouldn’t be retained in their settings. So to get around this,pure gold is mixed with other metals to make it harder, workable and durable.

This mixing process is known as alloying – metals are blended together in very precise quantities based on what purpose the resultant gold is going to serve. Metals added might include; silver, brass, copper, zinc, palladium and even nickel.

This is how we arrive at the different designations of carats. We’ll discuss exactly what that word means and where it comes from in a later blog, but basically it refers to what the concentration of gold is which has been mixed with other metals.

Pure gold is 24carats. So, by extension, 18 carats is 18 parts pure gold and 6 parts other metal. And similarly, 10 caratsis 10 parts pure gold and 14 parts other metal (much of which is silver).

This explains the significant differences in price between the various carats of gold – you’re paying for how much pure gold there is.

So a word of caution. Rather avoid jewelry marketers who advertise solid 24 carat or 22carat goldjewelry. Such claims are usually fraudulent and designed to attractuninformed customers.

In fact, the term solid gold is also something to be aware of. This term is used to differentiate between actual gold jewelry of any carat, and jewelry of various other metals which is only gold plated or gold vermeil. We’ll explain these terms too, but simply put these are just gold veneers.

There should be such a large difference in price that the word solid helps to manage the expectations of price.