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All You Need To Know About Gold Jewelry

Among the precious metals of the world, gold dominates, and has since the dawn of human history.

Every great civilization had its treasure trove of gold, using it for important rituals and for trade. Museums attest to the longevity of the lustrous metal and to the variety of uses through the ages.

Egyptians equated gold with the sun—the giver of life—and reserved its use for pharoahs only. Other civilizations, including China and India, include 24 karat jewelry in their wedding ceremonies to ensure a lifetime of happiness and good luck. Techniques used by the ancient Etruscans to produce fine jewelry are still in use today. And no gift says love quite like jewelry gifts made from gold, today as in ages past.

Gold is unique among the world’s precious metals for four reasons.

Purity—in all of history, only an estimated 100,000 tons of gold have been mined. It takes several tons or ore to produce even one ounce of the precious metal, pointing to the difficulty of extracting gold from the earth.

Beauty—Gold is naturally yellow, but its color can be enhanced by alloying it with other metals to create different colors. Metalsmiths add copper to create a soft, rose gold, silver to create an exquisite green gold, and palladium returns white gold. Combining these different colors is a popular way to wear jewelry.


Malleability—Gold is a soft metal, easy to work with and adaptable to myriad designs. Easily melted and sculpted into many forms, gold is generally alloyed to produce strength and sometimes color, as pure gold is too soft to be used for jewelry.

Durability—Museums throughout the world display coins, gold jewelry, and artifacts from ancient civilizations that all point to the durability of the metal.

Since 24 karat (pure) gold is too soft for jewelry making, look for the quality mark that tells you how much gold is in the piece you are considering. Eighteen karat gold is usually the highest percentage sold in jewelry, and will be marked 18k in the United States or 750 in Europe. 18k stands for 18/24 parts gold, and 750 stands for 75% gold. 14 karat jewelry is the standard in the United States, meaning 14/24 or slightly more than half is pure gold. In Europe it is designated 585, meaning 58.5% is pure gold. In the U.S., nothing less than 10 karat gold can be legally marked and sold as gold jewelry. The European designation is 417 (41.7%).

In addition to the karatage, law requires that gold jewelry be stamped with a hallmark or trademark as well. Sometime the country of origin is also marked. These designations assure you that you are indeed buying genuine gold jewelry as designated.

The price of gold jewelry is based on four factors: karatage, gram weight, design and craftsmanship. The objective measures of karatage and gram weight convey how much gold is in the piece, but more subjective factors such as construction and design also help determine price. Aesthetics may be the most important aspect governing the price of a piece of gold jewelry.

Although gold is lasting and durable, it can get scratched or dented if not treated respectfully. One very harmful chemical is chlorine. Gold’s actual structure can be weakened and damaged if exposed repeatedly to chlorine. So remove your gold jewelry before you enter the pool or clean with chlorinated cleaners.

When not being worn, protect your gold jewelry by keeping it wrapped in a soft cloth. Clean it with mild soap and warm water, and use a chamois or soft cloth to dry and polish it after washing and rinsing well. Inspect your gold jewelry and allow a professional jeweler to repair any damage right away, and your treasure should last you a lifetime.


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