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The Merit of Metals – Gold

Gold has been the standard symbol of beauty and wealth for the entirety of recorded history; gold jewelry has been uncovered from burial sites dating back to 4600 BCE. Gold jewelry even predates the invention of the wheel in Mesopotamia c. 3900 BCE.

The Eminence of Gold

Tutankhamun's Burial Mask is 23 karat and 18 karat Gold.
The facemask of Tutankhamun’s burial mask is 18 karat gold; the headdress is 23 karat gold; which suggests the face was constructed separately.

Ever since the first person recovered and worked an alluvial gold nugget; gold has enchanted humans. Gold exudes timeless appeal, famously adorning the ancient pharaohs of Egypt, the magistrates of ancient Rome, and every noble family in Europe. Even Elvis, the king of rock and roll had a gold piano; or at least a wooden piano covered in gold leaf.

Gold’s worldwide appeal is further evident by its presence in artifacts from Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, the use of the gold talent as a currency in ancient Lydia c. 700 BCE, and the mining of gold ore from Kolar gold fields from the first millennium BCE. Gold jewelry was excavated from ancient burial sites radiocarbon dated to 4200-4600 BCE which means gold jewelry even predates the invention of the wheel by around 700 years! Gold’s indefectible beauty has led to its presence in artifacts from nearly every civilization and religion spanning every continent but Antarctica, and with that millennia-long track record of value, its never been a bad time to purchase gold.

Modern Gold

Today the monetary value of a piece of gold jewelry is determined by its karat. Karat is the measure of fineness (or purity) of gold, and is expressed as parts per 24. The most common karats in gold jewelry today are 10 karat (41.6% pure) 14 karat (58.3% pure) 18 karat (75% pure) 22 karat (91.6% pure) and 24 karat (100% pure.) To determine the purity of any karat gold, divide the karat by 24 (14/24 = 58.3%) or to calculate the equivalent karat based upon the purity of gold, multiple the percentage of purity by 24 (0.73*24 = 17.5 karats.) A stamp or mark of fineness (whether expressed as a percentage or a karat) on a product manufactured with any amount of gold cannot overstate the fineness of the entire piece by more than seven one thousandths. This means a piece of jewelry that is assayed at 40.97% pure gold can be considered 10 karat, but at 40.95% cannot.

Today’s jewelry is available in a plethora of colors which compliment today’s fashion trends. These colors are achieved through the use of non-gold metals alloyed with gold. Red gold alloys contain high concentrations of copper which provide their rose hue, green gold alloys contain silver, and white gold contains nickel (or palladium); extra white gold, an alloy which produces the bright white look of rhodium plating without the need to electroplate, contains a higher concentration of nickel than other white gold alloys. G&S Metals and Refiners offers a wide selection of karats and colors in gold for our round wire, half round, square, and flat sizing stock, flat sheet, casting grain, and findings on our website. G&S Metals has a wide selection of non-gold bearing casting alloys for jewelers who cast their own colors.

The high price of gold necessitated the development of a material which would provide the look of karat gold without the cost. Gold filled is that material, offering the look of karat gold at a fraction of the price. Gold filled is karat gold mechanically bonded onto a brass metal core through heat and pressure. In the United States gold filled material is required by the National Metals Stamping Act to have a karat fineness of not less than 10 karats (41.6% pure) gold. This karat gold layer must additionally be a minimum of 1/20th of the weight of the gold filled to qualify as ‘gold filled’. Any ‘gold filled’ that possesses less than 1/20th karat gold by weight is prohibited from being sold as gold filled, and is instead considered ‘rolled gold plate’ or ‘gold overlay.’ The karat fineness and thickness of gold filled is most often expressed in a fraction, with the numerator of the fraction expressing the fineness of the karat gold, and the denominator indicating the karat gold to brass alloy weight ratio. As an example a common marking for gold filled is ’14/20 gold filled’ the first number in the fraction (14) informs you of the fineness of the gold (in karats) and the denominator indicates the weight content (for our 14/20 example this is 5% by weight.) The gold filled available through G&S Metals and Refiners is all 14/20 gold filled; stocked in both yellow and red for round wire, square wire, half round wire, flat sheet, and findings.

**article amended 1/7/2016 to correct grammatical errors, thanks to Sam Kaffine for catching what we missed!**

7 comments on “The Merit of Metals – Gold

    1. Glad to see you enjoyed our little post! We would’ve loved to go even deeper into gold’s history (and maybe will in the future) however this article went in a different direction than our usual posts here on the G&S Metals blog, so we wanted to err on the side of a shorter article just in case people didn’t find it interesting.

  1. I enjoyed the post about gold and the jewelry showcase. Do you also buy scrap gold? How about gold that I got panning? Just a small amount.

  2. sorry to be a Nancy Nitpicker, but an apostrophe is ONLY used to; indicate possession (Sara’s = belonging to Sara) OR to indicate contraction (he’s = he is). “It’s” means “It is”, and ONLY “It is” (“Its” is possessive to begin with). Adding the apostrophe is like writing “Her’s”. This whole article, while informative and interesting, loses credibility by the repeated use of “it’s” when “its” is the correct usage. Sorry, it’s a pet peeve. On the other hand, I learned quite a bit, including a new word (indefectible). Thanks!!

    1. We corrected our grammar, thanks for pointing the errors out! After looking at the post and editing it so many times before going live we caught a little case of “factory blindness” and likely would not have caught that error.

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