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Gold is the most common precious metal used in high quality jewelry. Gold has a wonderful reflective property and can be polished to brilliant shine. Furthermore, gold does not rust, corrode or tarnish, and hence the shine will not fade with time.
Two features are important to understand, when talking about gold quality:
Platinum has a lot in common with gold. Both metals are rare, very precious and used in high quality jewelry. Like gold, platinum has a wonderful reflective property and can be polished to brilliant shine. Furthermore, it does not rust, corrode or tarnish, and hence the shine will not fade with time. Platinum, however, is rarer than gold and more than twice as expensive.
The quality of platinum is defined in terms of its purity, yet different qualities of platinum may have different distinct purposes.
Karat (abbreviated as “k” or “kt”, and not to be confused with “carat” or “ct” which is the weight measure of diamonds and coloured gemstones) indicates the purity of gold on a scale of 1 to 24. 24 karat gold is the purest form of gold available, that is, it is 99.99% pure.
Around the world, it has become common practice, and in some countries it is legally mandated, to indicate the purity of gold in jewelry by stamping a tiny mark on the jewelry (if space allows). In North America and Japan, the purity marks are stated in karat, e.g. 18K, 14K, 10K …, in Europe, the purity marks are stated in percentage, e.g. 999, 925, 750 … Both methods are widely used in Asia and other parts of the world.
Alloys are mixtures of other more valuable and less valuable metals which are added to the gold to change its characteristics, such as hardness, colour and price.
The following table will define how the most common international gold markings are to be understood:
14K (585) Gold:
(500), 11K, 10K (416), 9K (375), 8K (333) Gold:
In some cases, this gold purity is not the cheapest or mere low grade gold. If the gold is mixed with platinum or palladium to make white gold, this grade of gold can be very expensive. It may also have the effect of producing a hard platinum like metal, while being less expensive than platinum. In such case, gold is the alloy which is added to platinum to reduce the price of platinum.
Pure gold (24k or 999) is too soft to be used in everyday jewelry. Hence, jewelry gold usually uses an alloy metal to increase the gold’s hardness and change its colour. Palladium, platinum, rhodium, copper, zinc, nickel and silver are metals commonly mixed with gold for use in jewelry.
Alloys are a mixture of metals, which are added to the gold, to give it different characteristics:
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