The steady rise in the price of gold over the last five years shows an enduring fascination with this precious metal. Tutankhamun’s mask, King Midas, our coinage systems, Eldorado, the Californian gold rush and even James Bond’s arch rival Goldfinger are some of the icons of wealth and greed that this noble metal has helped create throughout history. What is the lasting allure of gold and its use in gold jewellery today?
Gold is a metal with remarkable properties for use in jewellery. It is a dense and durable metal being resistant to corrosion and oxidation, yet can be soft and malleable for the making of jewellery. Gold also conducts heat well and rapidly warms to our body temperature. In its purest form, gold has a bright mesmerizing yellow colour that has a sensual beauty next to the skin.
The purity of gold is defined in units of carats, which is believed to be derived from a Roman coin called a solidus that was introduced by the Emperor Diocletian around 300AD. Each coin struck had around 24 carats of gold and this sub-division continues today.
24 carat gold is the purest form of gold, with 999 parts per thousand of gold, and is generally regarded as being too soft for jewellery. To increase the metal’s hardness, gold is combined with other metals to form an alloy. 18 carat gold, for example, is composed of 18 parts of pure gold and 6 parts of another metal. 14 carat and 9 carat gold have decreasing parts of pure gold and therefore are less valuable.
The alloying process also allows a jeweller to introduce other metals to influence the final colour of the alloy. The colour of pure gold is yellow, but with the addition of a metal such as palladium, the alloy will turn a silvery white that is sold with the finesse of 18 carat white gold. Alloys made with nickel and gold have been phased out in Europe since 2000 to help prevent the incidence of allergies. Other colour golds such as rose gold can be achieved with a gold alloy containing copper.
Gold is very resistant to wear and it will retain its shape and colour for generations. Most white gold jewellery sold today is also plated with rhodium, a platinum-like metal that gives white gold an additional gleam. This will start to wear within 2 to 3 years, but can be easily replaced at most jewellers.
To care for your gold jewellery, clean the gold with a soft cleaning cloth with a good quality cleaning liquid. Polish the metal with gentle, circular movements and dry off any excess liquid. Be careful however not to damage any more sensitive gems such as pearls and, if in doubt, simply clean and polish your gold jewellery with water.
As gold prices have increased, more jewellery with a lower gold finesse or silver has become popular. At Winterson, we favour 18 carat gold for its lasting value, quality and durability and all our gold jewellery is hallmarked at the London Assay office to verify its gold content. We design with either yellow or white gold to match with our Freshwater, Akoya and South Sea pearls, whilst Tahitian pearls with their dark colours have a more contemporary partnership with 18 carat white gold.IMAGE CREDIT: Copyright of Winterson