Gold has always been valued for its rarity, and most of all for its beauty. Since the earliest civilizations, people have loved to wear gold. When you put on gold earrings or look at your gold ring, you are admiring the warm glow of a metal that has been prized for centuries. In museums today, we see stunning pieces worked by artisans thousands of years ago that still have the gorgeous luster they had when they were first made.
Gold is a symbol of the highest achievement – a gold medal, a gold watch, an “Oscar.” The very word “gold” invokes the ideal: the golden rule, the gold standard, a golden age.
Let’s look more closely at this precious metal and how to care for it.
Today, gold jewelry can be yellow, white, rose, and even unusual colors such as green or black. When it comes from the earth, all gold is yellow in color. 24-karat gold is considered pure gold. It is a deep, rich yellow, and it is very malleable – that is, soft enough to be easily shaped and worked into thin wires and intricate designs. It is too soft to be made into durable jewelry, so 24-karat gold is alloyed with other metals to strengthen it.
The amount of pure gold in a piece of jewelry is denoted by the karat mark. 18K gold means the jewelry is made of 18 parts gold and 6 parts alloy. 14K gold is 14 parts gold and 10 parts alloy.
The metals used to alloy gold can also change its color. Yellow gold is alloyed with silver and copper. It keeps its yellow color. You may notice that 18K gold is a richer yellow than 14K gold.
White gold, which is popular today, is created when nickel or palladium, zinc, and copper are added to pure yellow gold. White gold is often plated with rhodium, which is a very white metal related to platinum. This plating gives the gold a crisp white finish. With wear, white gold can develop a warmer color tone, which results from tiny scratches that appear on the surface. The jewelry can be replated with rhodium periodically to freshen the appearance.
Customers often ask about white gold and platinum. Platinum is a metal completely different from gold. Platinum and rhodium-plated white gold may look similar in color when new, but as they wear, the platinum becomes more grayish, while the white gold takes on a yellowish tone. You probably wouldn’t want a platinum wedding band next to your white gold engagement ring. Both of your rings should be made of the same metal. Platinum can be refinished to a new shine and white gold can be refinished and replated, but they are not always going to look good next to each other.
Another consideration with white gold is that it is sometimes alloyed with nickel. Nickel is a metal that causes allergic reactions in some people. If you have a mild reaction, you may be able to wear 18K white gold as opposed to 14K white gold, because the 18K has more gold content and less alloy. Or, choose a white gold ring that is alloyed with a different metal, such as palladium.
Rose gold is growing in popularity. Its rosy color is created by alloying yellow gold with copper. Green gold is alloyed with silver, copper, and zinc. These variations add an interesting dimension to plain gold jewelry, and also enhance different colored gemstones.
Most gold jewelry is shiny. Other surface textures can be applied to change the look of the metal. For example, matte finish gold has a satin appearance. Deeper textures such as florentine create rustic looks that can be attractive alone, or used with areas of shiny finish.
Details like openwork, filigree, and milgrain add vintage style to white or yellow gold jewelry, with or without gemstones.
To preserve the beauty of your gold jewelry, avoid wearing it in chlorinated water such as pools and hot tubs. Remove your jewelry before using household cleaners. All of these chemicals can weaken gold.
Protect your jewelry from scratches by storing it in pouches, zip-lock bags, or separate compartments of your jewelry box so the pieces don’t touch. For post earrings, fasten the post of one earring through the back of the other – this way the earrings won’t scratch each other.
Buff your gold jewelry with a soft cloth after wearing it, to remove smudges and keep it shiny. We think you’ll agree -- it feels wonderful to put on a piece of jewelry made from beautiful, glowing gold!
Plante Jewelers is a family-owned Jewelry store located in Swansea, Massachusetts. It is owned by Pierre and Nancy Plante.
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