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.