If you are looking into buying gold, this guide will educate you on the fundamentals and characteristics of gold that are needed in order to understand how to make accurate decisions about your gold purchases.
What Is A Karat?
Karat designates the amount of pure gold in the metal combination. The higher the percent of gold found in the metal, the higher the karat. Below are the most common karats found in gold jewelry today.
- 24kt - 24 karat gold is 100% (or pure) gold and is an exceptionally soft metal, easily recognized by its orange-yellow color.
- 18kt - 18 karat gold contains 75% pure gold (18/24) and the remaining 25% of metals are alloys that are added to provide strength, durability, and variations in color. 18kt gold rings are typically more expensive then 14kt gold rings because more pure gold is present within the ring.
- 14kt - 58.3% of the metal in a 14kt ring is pure gold. 14kt is the most common gold blend because the alloys fused with the gold produce a more durable metal combination that will wear well over time. As you have probably seen, 14kt gold comes in a variety of colors.
- 10kt - 10 karat gold is the lowest karat that the U.S.A. legally considers gold. Like all gold combinations, the alloys mixed with pure gold will change its color and give it strength and durability.
Don't confuse karat with Carat. Spelled with a "K" indicates the metal and with a "C" refers to the weight of a stone.
What Does That Stamp In My Ring Mean?
By law, the jewelry manufacturer must stamp the ring with the exact gold karat as well as the company's trademark. (The country of origin is occasionally present.) In the U.S., you will see on your ring: 24kt, 18kt, 14kt or 10kt. In Europe, the rings may have stamps that read: .750, .583, .417 etc. (This represents the amount of pure gold in the ring.)
What Is White Gold?
A white gold ring is made the same way a yellow gold ring is made, but the alloys combined with the pure gold give the finished metal combination a white hue. Any number of gold/alloy combinations can be used to make gold appear white. After the new white colored gold ring is created, the finished ring is plated with a precious metal called rhodium. The rhodium finish gives the ring a bright luster that is impossible to produce when creating white gold alloy combinations.
The Ring Costs How Much?
The price of a ring does not have to be a complete mystery. In a non-diamond band, the price is determined by the total weight of the ring and the labor/materials used to create and design each individual ring. The main factor in ascertaining the price of a ring from its weight is the karat percentage of gold. The higher the karat, the more expensive the ring, as gold is more expensive then the alloys mixed with it. Design and craftsmanship are more complicated to quantify and will change with each style.
Platinum vs. Gold
Yes, platinum is more expensive than gold. It is also a much heavier metal then gold. If you compare a gold ring and a platinum ring with similar dimensions, the platinum ring can weigh as much as 60% more then the gold ring. Platinum's density creates a finished product that polishes bright, never tarnishes, is scratch-resistant and will last a lifetime. Another difference between platinum and gold is that platinum jewelry contains 95% pure platinum. Compare that to gold, where rings can have as little as 41% pure gold. While white gold contains alloys to create its color, platinum is naturally white and will retain its luster for as long as you own the ring.
Why Does Gold Discolor?
You may think that faulty manufacturing or "under-karating" might be the problem when a ring turns, blackening or discoloring either the skin and clothing, or the jewelry itself. However, that is not the case. The most common reason for jewelry turning your skin black is metallic abrasion, caused by makeup on skin or clothing.
Cosmetics often contain compounds harder than the jewelry itself, which wear or rub off very tiny particles of the precious metals. Very finely divided metal always appears black, rather than metallic, so it looks like a jet-black dust. When this dust comes into contact with absorbent surfaces such as skin or clothing, it sticks, forming a black smudge.
How Do I Avoid This?
To prevent this, a person should try switching cosmetics. If this is not possible, it is recommended to remove rings and other jewelry while applying makeup, and then clean the skin areas in contact with the jewelry with soap and water. Another cause of discoloration is the actual corrosion of the metals. Gold itself does not corrode, or oxidize, but its primary alloy materials of silver and copper will do so forming very dark chemical compounds under moist or wet conditions.
When a person perspires, fats and fatty acids released in the perspiration can cause corrosion of 10 or 14-karat gold, especially when exposed to warmth and air. This problem can be worse in seacoast and semitropical areas, where chlorides combine with the perspiration to form a corrosive element that discolors skin. Even smog fumes will gradually attack jewelry, and are evident as a tarnish that rubs off on the skin.
Under these conditions, it is suggested that a person remove their jewelry often, and use an absorbent powder, free of abrasive compounds, on skin that comes into contact with the jewelry. Sometimes, the actual design of the jewelry can be an influencing factor. Wide shanks have more surface area to contact abrasives or corrosives. Concave surfaces inside a shank form natural collection points that trap moisture and contaminants, also causing a type of dermatitis.
A person should remove all rings before using soaps, cleaning compounds, or detergents, or going into pools, and clean their rings frequently. As well as solving the problem, a person will be amazed at how much better their rings will look!
If success is not achieved with these corrective measures, it is recommended that a person switch to 18-karat gold or platinum jewelry. The lower alloy metal content of 18-karat gold, 25% versus about 41.5% (14K) to 58.3% (10K), significantly reduces the problem, and the use of platinum should eliminate it completely.
Really Important Information:
Chlorine and chlorides are really harmful to gold jewelry. Pool and spa chlorine and similar chemicals attack the alloys mixed with the gold causing weakness and brittle stress areas. These areas are unseen and unpredictable. When extreme contamination is done, it is irreversible and unrepairable. Not wearing your jewelry in pools and spas or using chlorine cleaning products like bleach will be beneficial for your jewelry. We call this chlorine contamination "Chemical Stress Corrosion".