GOLD EDUCATION GUIDE

Frequently Asked Questions About Karat Gold

What does ‘Karat’ Mean? How do I know if a piece of jewelry is Karat Gold? How can I clean and care for my Karat Gold Jewelry? What's the difference between 'Karat' and 'Carat'? Find the answers to all of these questions and more here.


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Why Choose Gold Jewelry?

What do you really know about your gold jewelry? Have you thought about where it comes from or why you like the look and feel of gold? Gold jewelry is always in high demand, but few understand why it is valuable. Creating beautiful gold chains, bangles, necklaces or earrings is a balance of art and science. In this gold jewelry buying guide we aim to help you understand what goes into creating the perfect piece of gold jewelry. Gold combines the four characteristics of lustrous beauty, virtual indestructibility, extreme rarity, and ease of workability, making it the ideal metal for jewelry. Being the most malleable of all metals, a one-ounce piece of gold can be worked down to 5 micrometers thick – that is 1/10 the diameter of a human hair – and laid out into 50 miles of wire. Read More.... Gold can also be made so thin that it becomes a translucent sheet; in fact, astronaut’s visors are covered in a thin gold film to protect their eyes from glare. Gold is, and always has been, recycled. Pure gold is indestructible; it will not corrode, rust or tarnish and cannot be destroyed by fire. All the gold taken from the earth during all of recorded history is still being melted and re-melted and used again and again. With a rich history that dates back over 6,000 years, gold jewelry continues to evoke feelings of value and desire.   Gold is hypoallergenic, will never rust, and maintains its color and shine through the years. Its malleable nature allows craftsmen to create a near-infinite array of classic and contemporary designs. The lasting nature and creative potential of gold has made it the most widely sourced and coveted material for jewelry. Gold jewelry is a wonderful ornament. It is a romantic gift for someone you love, or you can use it to decorate yourself. If you want a beautiful gift that keeps its value, gold jewelry is the right choice.


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What is Karat Gold?

Gold in its purest state is referred to as 24-karat gold. This level of gold is rarely used in gold jewelry because it is too soft. Gold jewelry is usually alloyed or combined with other metals for increased strength and workability, a practice that is thousands of years old. Karatage tells you the purity of your gold jewelry. Much of what people think of when they think of gold jewelry is known as karat gold. Most American gold jewelry is made of 14-karat gold. It is marked with either 14k or 585. The 14k marking means it is made of 14 parts gold combined or alloyed with 10 parts of other metals to add strength and color. The 585 marking means it is 58.0% to 58.5% pure gold. Eighteen-karat gold, marked 18k or 750, is 18 parts gold and 6 parts other metals and is 75% pure gold. Ten-karat gold, marked 10k or 416, is 10 parts gold and 14 parts other metals, and is only 41% pure gold.   Here are the most commonly used varieties of karat gold. Please note that the United States requires a minimum of 10 karats to be used in jewelry (although 9-karat jewelry is very popular in the United Kingdom).


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What is Gold Alloy?

As we mentioned earlier, pure gold is always mixed with alloys to create karat gold. Alloys are created when at least two different metals are combined. All karat gold jewelry uses alloys to help enhance the pure gold, but it is important to note that not all alloys are created equal. Alloys provide hardness and durability, as well as color variations in gold, depending on the type of alloy metals added. Alloys can impact other factors such as weight, strength, shine, and in certain cases, factors such as the hypoallergenic nature of gold. For example, titanium alloy combined with gold is a strong source material for designers.  


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How Do Alloys Affect Color in Gold Jewelry?

Even though alloys often account for a minority of the metal used, they have a significant impact on the overall color of karat gold jewelry. For example,   Different colors of gold allow jewelers to appeal to a variety of tastes and help designers create an array of styles.


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How Is Gold Jewelry Priced?

Several factors affect the cost of gold jewelry. One factor is, naturally, changes in the price of gold. Another key factor is karatage, the amount of pure gold vs. the amount of less expensive alloys.   Without a doubt, the price of gold jewelry is much higher than the price of gold. We all know manufactured gold jewelry has costs associated with it, such as design, labor, factory costs, sales and marketing, transportation, and so on. Several factors affect the cost of your gold jewelry. The weight of the gold in the jewelry is also a significant factor in its price. Read More.... When determining the right karatage for a piece of gold jewelry, it is essential to consider how it will be worn. A substantial amount of gold is recommended for everyday pieces (such as wedding bands) or pieces with a higher possibility for abrupt contact (such as bangles). On the other hand, lighter pieces work well when dealing with earrings or pendants, where the risk of contact is lower and comfort trumps weight and durability. The process used to create your gold jewelry also plays a role in its cost. The creation of gold jewelry usually starts with one of two processes, casting or stamping. Castings are made by pouring molten karat gold into a mold. Stampings are created using a press. Custom and more substantial jewelry pieces tend to be casted, while stamping is used for crafting commonly used parts, such as earring backings. The majority of jewelry sold in stores is created using a combination of casted metal and stamped metal components, which are then finished by jewelry artisans. The extent to which artisans are needed to craft the final piece can also play a significant role in the final price. For example, a straightforward assembly would require less time and incur less added cost than substantial hand engraving. Last but not least, it’s important to consider any other materials used in the creation of a design. Gold is often combined with an array of diamonds, and other precious and semi-precious stones, all of which must be factored into the final price.


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What are Gold Jewelry Finishes?

The various techniques used to transform the surface on your gold jewelry are known as finishes. Possible gold jewelry finishes range from bright polish, to matte sandblasting, to hammered textures. The finish on your gold jewelry significantly impacts its final look and style. Bright polish allows the true nature of gold to shine through, while an array of brushed, satin, matte, engraved and hammered finishes allow designers to expand upon on what is traditionally expected from gold jewelry.  Jewelry craftsmen continually experiment with new hand and machine techniques to push the boundaries of gold finishes and their impact on the latest jewelry designs.


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What Are Some Karat Gold Alternatives?

Part of what makes karat gold so appealing is the fact that pure gold and gold alloy are combined to create a metal that has gold throughout. From the surface to the center, the amount of pure gold throughout your jewelry is consistent.  Unlike karat gold, these alternatives are not gold throughout. The techniques vary, but they all begin with a core of base metal (such as brass, nickel or steel) or silver (in the case of vermeil and bonded) and add thin layers of gold over the top of the base. The total amount of gold used can vary, but gold-filled traditionally offers the greatest gold thickness, with a minimum of 10% of the total weight being gold. It is important to keep longevity and care in mind when purchasing vermeil or plated gold jewelry. Over time the gold can be worn or polished away, allowing the base metal to show through. However, all varieties can be re-plated if needed. Because of the thicker covering on gold-filled and bonded gold jewelry, the external gold should last for years. Thinly plated gold is typically used for costume/fashion jewelry, while gold-filled and vermeil are commonly used as fine jewelry alternatives.


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How Do You Care For Gold Jewelry?

Between everyday wear and contact with undetectable chemicals, gold jewelry requires periodic cleaning. Regularly checking your gold jewelry for noticeable scratches or changes to the gold surface will let you know when it is time for a cleaning. To properly clean your jewelry, use a soft bristled toothbrush and a bowl with a mixture of light soap and water. Dry your gold with a soft cloth. If you prefer, there are a number of gold-specific jewelry polishes to choose from that perform nicely.  Broken chains, noticeable dents, and deep scratches require the services of a jeweler or repairman. Although there are many ways to care for your gold jewelry in the comfort of your home, an occasional check-up with your jeweler is recommended to preserve your gold.


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