“Gold! gold! gold! gold! Bright and yellow, hard and cold.”
Thomas Hood (1799-1845)
Gold is the most commonly used material for the creation of jewelry. Exceptionally popular, it is the most desired of metals, with the highest market value and relative rarity in nature. This precious, shining element was discovered 3000 years B.C., although the first nuggets of gold appear to have been mined in the Alps in Transylvania in 6000 B.C.
Our modern word for this metal is derived from the Old English for yellow, ‘geolo’ and its chemical symbol is ‘Au’, from the Latine name for Gold, ‘aurum’.
In addition to its use in the creation of precious objects (and status symbols, as gold is associated with wealth and high social status), Gold has always been used and accepted as a means of payment, as an investment, or even as a trade good. Of all the precious metals, Gold is the most immune to forgery, as pure Gold always maintains its splendor and typical glow, never tarnishes and resists corrosion. However, pure gold is too malleable for decorative use, and is often alloyed with other metals to increase its resistance. The international measure of gold fineness or purity is ‘karat’, which is typically abbreviated ‘K’, which should not be confused with ‘carat’, the unit of weight in gemstones (ct).
The gold content of any object is expressed mathematically as a ratio of 24 parts; pure gold is 24K.
The information generally refers to thousandths. The following purity grades are used for jewelry:
- 91.6 % pure Gold (= 22 K: 22 parts Gold, 2 parts alloy)
- 75 % pure Gold (= 18 K: 18 parts Gold, 6 parts alloy)
- 58.5 % pure Gold (= 14 K: 14 parts Gold, 10 parts alloy)
- 41.7 % pure Gold (= 10 K: 10 parts Gold, 14 parts alloy)
- 37.5 % pure Gold (= 9 K: 9 parts Gold, 15 parts alloy)
Gold is marketed in various colors, depending on its alloys with different metals. The most popular are yellow Gold, white Gold and rose Gold.
Yellow gold is alloyed with silver and copper, and is the most common form of Gold on the market.
White Gold is a modern variety of Gold, resulting from a bleaching process.
Rose Gold is also known as Russian Gold, as this color was particularly popular in Russian in the early 19th Century. When alloyed with copper; the greater the percentage of copper, the more intense its color.
Extracted from seams of argentite, Silver’s history begins 500 years ago. Silver is common as a loved and affordable metal in jewelry in practically every civilization. It is also commonly used in the production of art objects and cutlery.
The chemical symbol for silver is ‘Ag’, derived from the Latin Argentum, meaning Silver.
Pure Silver is ductile and lighter than gold or platinum. It is generally alloyed with a second metal, such as copper, in order to confer greater hardness. As is the case for platinum, Silver’s purity is defined in parts per thousand: Sterling Silver, for example is composed of 925 parts (92.5%) Silver and 75 parts, or 7.5 percent, of other alloys. Equally shiny is the 95.8% pure Silver, known as 958 Silver. The number indicates the minimum percentage of pure silver that makes up the object, together with other metals.
Generally, Gold is recognized as a noble metal, although platinum follows not far behind and is even more rarely found in nature. Furthermore, platinum is purer, more resistant and denser than gold. Thanks to its white color, natural properties and durability, platinum is particularly well-suited to use in jewelry. It is also more hypoallergenic, very rarely causing allergic reactions. Platinum purity is expressed in parts per thousand. The most common grades are: 950, 900 and 850, indicating a perceptual purity of 95%, 90% and 85%, respectively. Platinum was first mentioned by Julius Scaliger (1484-1558), and its name is derived from the Spanish ‘platina’, which means ‘little silver’, reflecting its similarity with silver. Platinum was a big hit with the Sun King, France’s Louis XIV, who declared it to be the only metal fit for kings. Declared a strategic metal during WWII, platinum never regained its previous popularity.
The use of Titanium as a metal for the creation of jewelry has a much shorter history. It is currently highly valued for its light weight and high resistance, its distinct coloration and silky, shimmering surface. Furthermore, people with allergies prefer Titanium due to its hypoallergenic properties and lack of nickel.