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Gold, Alloys, Carat Stamps and all things Precious Metals

Gold Ingot

We all love jewellery, but do we really know much about gold, alloys and precious metals? I'm here to break it down for you!

Gold is the softest and most workable of all precious metals.  In its natural form its way too soft for most practical uses. On its own its known as an element. When two or more elements are mixed together we have an alloy!  Fine gold is mixed with other metals or alloyed to give it durability and strength.

There are two ways of measuring the amounts of fine gold in an alloy:

The carat scale has been in use since ancient times.  Carat (ct) comes from the Italian word Carato, and Arab word Quirat which means the fruit of the carab tree.  The seeds from the fruit of the carab tree were all very much even in weight and were perfect for balancing the scales when weighing fine gold in ancient market places.

The fineness scale ranges from 0- 1000. Pure gold/ Fine gold is known as 999.99 (fine inner gold) , 18 carat is 750 ( 750 parts of 1000 that are fine gold), and 9ct is 375 ( 375 parts of 1000 that are fine gold)

The carat scale ranges from 0-24, Fine Gold is 24 carat (24ct), 750 fine is 18 carat (18ct) or 18/24ths, and 375 fine is 9 carat (9ct) or 9/24ths.

Alloyed gold usually contains silver and copper. For an example 18ct would contain 75% pure gold and 25% mix of silver and copper.  Each manufacture of precious metals will vary with their exact measurements for the alloy, however this will give you some idea of what is happening. Other elements used for alloying gold are Platinum, Palladium, Nickel, Zinc, Cadmium, Indium and Silicon.

Fine gold is a rich vibrant yellow colour. When silver is added the more pale the colour comes.   When copper is added the pinker the colour becomes.  It can also be made quite vibrant white when adding Platinum, Silver, Palladium etc

White gold is an alloy that consists of fine yellow gold and is mixed with other base metals to achieve a whiter brighter colour.  The metals used this alloy to help with this "bleaching" process of the fine yellow gold are generally Palladium, Silver, Platinum and Nickel.   The white gold is then rhodium plated so it looks as bright as possible.

Next question you will probably ask is what is Rhodium? It is an elemental metal from the Platinum group of metals , non tarnishing, very white and bright.  Most white gold is rhodium plated, however some some jewellers may prefer to not to rhodium plate some jewellery due to the profile style of the ring.  Most people choose to have their rings re rhodium plated every 6-12 months, depending on wear and tear from the wearer.  When maintained properly with the upkeep of rhodium plating, the jewellery should always look bright, shiny and new looking.

What is Rose Gold?
Is a fine yellow gold and copper alloy.  In the nineteenth century it became very popular in Russia.

What is Platinum?
Platinum is rarer than any other precious metal. On earth there is approx 35 times less platinum deposits than gold deposits.  It has a 95% degree of purity, hypoallergenic, holds gemstones safely,  It always maintains its own whiteness and brightness.

What is Palladium?
Palladium belongs to the Platinum family, it has been described as slightly grey looking. It is roughly half the density of Platinum and in its purest form it is slightly softer than Platinum.  It doesn't require rhodium plating.  

What is Titanium?
Is very resistant to cracking, bending and has great scratch resistance.  Under normal wear and tear it should only show scuff marks and minor scratches.  It is a greyish in colour. Lightweight and hypoallergenic. Titanium rings cannot be resized as titanium cant be soldered.

What is  Zirconium?
Zirconium ( Zr) exists as an element in the mineral Zircon.
It is strong, hypoallergenic, malleable, ductile and its appearance in its natural  state, is a silver grey metal.  When heated under controlled conditions it develops a black surface oxidisation which is durable and has a natural black sheen. It cannot be soldered, therefore resizing can be an issue. 
Similar to titanium in its properties, lighter than steel and its hardness closer to Platinum.

Carat Stamp Meanings

Inside every piece of jewellery a carat stamp should be visible to verify the purity of each item.  Jewellers may also place their own logo/ Hallmark inside the item as well.

375 = 37.5% Fine Gold ( 9ct Gold)
417 = 41.7% Fine Gold ( 10ct Gold) 
585 = 58.5% Fine Gold ( 14ct Gold) 
750 = 75% Fine Gold (18ct Gold)
916 = 91.6% Fine Gold (22ct Gold)
960 = 96% Fine Platinum Platinum 
950 = 95% Fine Platinum Platinum
950 = 95% Fine Palladium Palladium 
925 = 92.5% Fine Silver Sterling Silver 
Ti = Titanium

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