What do you think of when you hear the word GOLD? A vault of ingots at Fort Knox? Lost treasures from forgotten empires? Or maybe you have the same thing on your mind that I do … fabulous jewelry! I thought we could expand on our last blog about White Gold vs Platinum, and explore metal alloys a little deeper. Did you know that when it comes to gold jewelry, there are more options than the traditional yellow and white gold familiar to most people?
Gold alloys come in a variety of stunning colors that can really make a piece of jewelry stand out from the crowd. In addition to yellow gold, most people have heard of white gold, but the options don’t stop there. Gold can also be rose, red, or pink, green, blue, purple, and even black.
What is the difference among these various hues? Let’s start with an explanation of “pure,” or 24K gold. Pure gold has no other metals mixed into it. Other gold classes, such as 10K (41.7% gold), 14k (58.5%) or 18K (75%) gold contain a smaller percentage of gold that is combined with other metals such as silver or copper. These types of gold are technically alloys because other metals are mixed into the pure gold. The higher the karat, the richer the gold tone. For people with sensitive skin, sometimes the other metals can cause skin irritation. Higher karat gold (18k & 22k) and Platinum (90-95%) are the most hypoallergenic metal for jewelry- but you already know all about Platinum from our last post!
So let’s start with our pure gold and mix in some different types of metal to make things more interesting.
White Gold: While some people prefer to have their gemstones set in platinum, white gold is a great alternative for those who prefer a silver hue to their gold jewelry. White gold can be mixed with manganese, nickel, or palladium to achieve its signature color. Standard white gold is a combination of 14K gold and a mix of copper, nickel, and zinc. White gold is often plated in rhodium to increase its shine. It is often necessary to re-plate after a year or two of wear to bring back the bright white color.
Green Gold: Also called electrum, green gold is a naturally-occurring alloy containing both gold and silver. Depending on the ratio of gold to silver, the hue can be subtle or deeper.
Red Golds: For gold to take on a pink, rose, or red hue, it is mixed with copper. The greater the amount of copper present in the alloy, the deeper the shade of red.
The following colors are less commonly seen than yellow, white, green, and red, but can still be used in jewelry.
Purple Gold: Purple gold is created by combining gold with aluminum. This alloy is too brittle to us in the traditional sense, but can be cut to look like a gemstone.
Blue Gold: A combination of gold and the metal indium or gallium gives gold a subtle, bluish tone. Indium or gallium is present in larger amounts than gold in this alloy.
Black Gold: Mixing gold with cobalt allows the surface to be oxidized resulting in black gold.
Purple, blue, and black golds can also be created using surface treatments to achieve the desired hue.
It’s important to note that not all gold alloys are appropriate for the same types of jewelry. Some are more malleable, some more brittle. Black, purple, and blue gold pose challenges while white, rose, green and yellow gold can certainly be crafted into traditional jewelry. It’s also worth mentioning that the color variations tend to be subtle.
It can be fun to play around with the different colors of gold when designing a piece of jewelry. Using more than one type of gold within a piece can create a visually arresting alternative to standard yellow or white gold. At J. Briggs, we are happy to explore the different gold varieties with you to achieve exactly the effect you desire.
Confused when deciding between white gold and platinum for your precious stones or diamonds? You aren’t alone. We’ve created a “cheat sheet” for helping you make the perfect decision for your jewels.
-is NOT a white metal – started its life as a yellowy, orangey, sometimes greenish gold and was coaxed into whiteness by alloying it with whiter metals.
-will require rhodium plating, then re-plating once a year on average. (Some alloys show more yellow than others.) The final step in finishing white gold jewelry is to “rhodium plate,” it, creating the white color. Ironically, rhodium is in the platinum family.
-can sometimes cause a skin reaction with its alloys, most commonly, due to nickel. A different alloy can be chosen, such as palladium or cobalt.
-will stay shiny for a long time before re-polishing.
-is able to scratch if wearer is hard on it, but overall maintains shine a lot longer than platinum.
Note: 24k gold (100% gold) is too soft to be used for jewelry. 14k/18K are the strongest choices for everyday wear.
-is 30 times more rare and 60% heavier than gold, giving it a luxurious feel to some.
-is strong, but can absolutely scratch when banged.
-will develop a dulled finish after time, due to small dents it takes.
-is hypoallergenic (unlike gold) because it is normally not alloyed with more than 10% other metals.
-will need more frequent polishing than white gold.
-is ideal for hand engraved detailing.
-will cost more than gold due to:
-They are valuable and weighty metals – silver is not.
-Neither metal corrodes, rusts or tarnishes, and both are great for making jewelry.
-They are tried and true: 99.99% of all wedding rings are made from gold and platinum.
-Many alternative metals can’t be altered by more than 1-2 sizes and that work needs to be done in a machine shop vs. by a normal jeweler, because soldering can’t be done. Some metals aren’t able to be sized at all. Gold and platinum metals can be sized and worked on as many times as needed, as your fingers will likely change in size over the years.
-Both can withstand everyday wear, however intricate platinum jewelry has proven to endure the test of time much better than gold.
-Both are often used, and both have considerations you should be aware of when selecting prongs.
-Because it is a malleable metal (due to its purity), platinum tends to be more bendable than white gold. Small platinum prongs may become flatter when hit, but are less likely to break or wear down.
-With a white gold prong, the stronger, stiffer metal alloys will remain firm if directly hit. But if the hit is severe, the metal cracks as opposed to bending. If the hit is hard enough, it completely breaks off. Or a base crack could cause problems down the road.
-The amount of detail in your design should be a factor.
-Work with an experienced jeweler who is knowledgeable in the slight differences between white gold and platinum.
-Is a long lasting, high shine important to you, or is your taste suited to accepting a more matte finish?
-Make sure to disclose your hobbies, recreational activities, lifestyle, etc. to your jeweler.