Gold attracts us with its luster, gleaming colour and timelessness and thanks to these qualities, we can enjoy jewellery made from it for many years. At the same time, however, in its pure form, it is one of the softest known metals. It's actually so soft, that you could bend a pure gold coin with your hands. For this reason, 100% gold is used in jewellery only occasionally.
When shopping for gold jewellery, you will most often encounter the 14 carat and 18 carat varieties. At the KLENOTA jewellery studio, we work with 14 carat gold which has excellent technical properties that make it suitable for making handmade jewellery. It wins out over 18 carat gold due to its greater hardness, the fact that it does not get scratched as easily and that it is also more affordable. In short, it is ideal for everyday jewellery wear.
What is pure gold?
Gold is a chemical element that occurs naturally in various forms such as sheets, wires, nuggets or flakes. It has a rich metallic yellow colour and is also quite heavy. It is unique because it’s highly resistant to corrosion, acids and alkalis as well as to other environmental influences. On the other hand, its disadvantage is its relative softness. As a result, in the past, gold medal winning athletes were able to verify the authenticity of their medal by biting into it. If there were visible bite marks from their teeth, the medal was made of pure gold. However pure gold is almost never used in jewellery making. The jewellery would distort out of shape and would not polish well so the solution is to alloy or mix the gold with other metals. It is a process in which the melted gold is combined with other melted metals under specific conditions and in a precisely given ratio.
The most widely used gold in Czech jewellery is 14ct gold, which is stamped with the mark 585/1000. This means that it contains 58.5% pure gold and 41.5% of other metals. Similarly, 18ct gold is marked 750/1000 and contains 75% gold and 25% of other alloys. Jewellery with a lower purity of gold is also commonly sold in other countries and you may be able to find such pieces among Czech antique jewellery.
The alloys added to gold allow for an infinite number of subtle but also relatively unconventional and distinctive gold colours. Green, purple and brown gold is no exception but there are still only three classics - namely yellow, rose and white gold.
If you own a number of pieces of yellow gold jewellery which have various origins and ages, it is also quite possible that they will differ slightly in colour. The yellow gold they are made from would also contain silver and copper and their ratio in the various gold pieces might vary. The copper content in gold makes the metal harder but at the same time more brittle and colours it more red, while silver will lighten its colour. Compared to alloyed gold, pure 100% gold is distinctly more deep yellow to yellow-orange in colour.
Rose and red gold
Rose gold contains the same metal alloys as yellow gold but the ratio is weighted significantly more in favour of copper, which gives the gold a modern and delicate look. Copper also increases the hardness of the gold, making rose gold more durable than yellow or white gold. Rose gold is sometimes called “Russian gold” because it was very popular in Russia in the early 19th century.
You may also come across the term “red gold” which has an even higher copper content than rose gold. The difference in colour is often only small, so it sometimes happens that sellers use these two gold varieties interchangeably. The quality is the same for both colours, so the only thing that matters to the customer is whether they like a particular shade more.
The secret behind white gold is a bit more complicated and the usual gold-silver-copper alloy combination won’t do in this case. With white gold, it is necessary to add an element that will cover up the distinctive yellow colour of gold. The most common alloy mixes used are gold-palladium-silver and gold-nickel-copper-zinc. Gold alloys with nickel excel with their hardness and are therefore suitable for making rings. On the other hand, gold alloys with palladium are called grey gold. This gold is more expensive and also softer. So each element combined with gold affects the end properties of the gold as well as its price.
You may also not be aware that the colour of white gold ranges from very pale yellow, to brownish, grey, and soft pink. That sought after cool silvery shade is achieved only with a surface layer of white rhodium, which the finished jewellery is plated with. White gold jewellery at our KLENOTA jewellery studio also goes through this process. The rhodium not only has an aesthetic but also a protective function. As a result of it, jewellery is more resistant to scratches and its surface stays looking as new for longer. However we are also aware of the fact that some people may like the original look of the white gold without rhodium plating. If you are interested in non-rhodium plated jewellery, please request this in a note at the time you place your order.
Gold and new innovations
It isn’t just the creative spirit of a designer but science too which will often blow a breath of fresh air through the craft of jewellery making. We constantly experiment with the materials that jewellery is made from. And even a traditional metal like gold is no exception. Testing various combinations of alloys in it can lead to interesting results. One of them is called Spangold which has a gold-copper-aluminum composition patented by the company MINTEK. It was discovered by scientists in South Africa in the early 1990s. Depending on the amount of aluminum and copper, the gold is either pink or yellow. Based on the temperature it is exposed to, it undergoes a phase transformation, when it changes its crystalline structure. The process of this transformation is reversible and the transition between the individual phases is displayed through a change in the pattern on the gold’s surface. We call this shape memory effect. It creates small areas that are seemingly disordered and glitter beautifully.
Is it worth buying gold-plated jewellery?
A cheaper alternative to real gold jewellery is gold plated jewellery. Such jewellery is not made of gold, but from a cheaper metal and it acquires its attractive colour only as a result of a thin layer of gold which is applied to the surface of the metal. At first, such jewellery may look just like real gold jewellery, but unfortunately its beauty is fleeting. The surface plating is not permanent and over time the layer of gold will wear out and the base metal will begin to reveal itself on the surface. Restoring the jewellery to its original look is not easy because most jewellery stores do not offer gold plating as a service. With foreign jewellery, you may also come across white gold which was created by plating yellow gold with a layer of rhodium. This is against the rules however and it should not happen as only the white gold alloy should be referred to as white gold.
At the KLENOTA jewellery studio, our goldsmiths hand craft timeless jewellery made of beautiful, high-quality and durable 14ct gold. With most jewellery pieces, you can also choose the colour of the gold - you just need to specify it when you make your order.