Newsletter - December 28, 2011

The Jewelry Crafter

A newsletter for the home jeweler

This newsletter will be published once per month, and will include hints and tips for your jewelry business. Any feedback or comments about the topics presented here are always appreciated. Click here to e-mail us.

If you have an idea for an upcoming article, or would like to submit an article for the newsletter, please contact us. Anyone who submits an article will receive a permanent link to their website in a special section of our link pages.

Happy New Year!

All About Gold

by

Mary Harvey

Gold is a metallic element, and it is the only natural element that is yellow. It is also the only metal that will never tarnish. In addition to it’s use in jewelry making, it also has many practical uses. Gold is an excellent conductor of thermal energy, and is used in many electronic processes to draw heat away from sensitive instruments, and is used as a coating to reflect heat and radiation. For example, the astronauts of Apollo 11 had gold-coated visors to protect their eyes from the extremely bright sunlight on the moon. Also, the space shuttle’s main engine nozzle used a 35% gold alloy to help dissipate heat and protect the shuttle’s delicate instrumentation.

But, back to jewelry....

The purity of gold is measured in karats. Pure gold is 24 karat (999 parts out of 1000). 24 karat is too soft to be used for jewelry making, so it is mixed with alloys to make it more durable. The amount of gold determines the karat content. For example, 18 karat gold is 18 parts gold and 6 parts other metal (or 750 parts out of 1000), and so on.

The most common karat contents used for jewelry making or goldsmithing are:

  • 24 karat (999 or 99% gold)
  • 22 karat (916 or 91.6% gold)
  • 20 karat (833 or 88.3% gold)
  • 18 karat (750 or 75% gold)
  • 16 karat (625 or 62.5% gold)
  • 14 karat(585 or 58.5% gold)
  • 10 karat ( 417 or 41.7% gold)
  • 9 karat (375 or 37.5% gold))

The higher the gold content, the softer the metal. In the US, the legal minimum standard for gold is 10k, with 14k being the most popular.

By using different alloys, different shades can be attained. For example, combining 24k gold with copper and silver will retain the gold’s natural yellow shade, which is the most popular. Other alloys can be used to create different shades. For example:

  • Combining gold with copper creates “pink” or “rose” gold
  • Combining gold with silver and copper or zinc creates “green” gold
  • Combining gold with copper, nickel and zinc creates “white” gold.
  • Combining gold with iron creates “blue” or “gray” gold.

These colored alloys usually have a fineness of 10 to 14k.

As you can see, gold is a very versatile metal. From the space shuttle, to jewelry, to it’s monetary uses in just about every country in the world, gold continues to live up to it’s name as the “king of metals”.

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