Gold has been coveted since prehistoric times. Gold furnishings were specified for the Jewish Temple, noted in the New Testament as well as in numerous ancient Greek works. Gold was praised in Egyptian inscriptions as early as 2600 B.C. People from Troy to Africa marveled at its brilliant luster and associated it with wealth, prestige and immortality. Used primarily as decoration for thousands of years, gold has been made into plates, cups, vases and jewelry as well as shrines and idols.
Gold has expanded its role from being personal adornment and general decor. Today, gold is used in dentistry, electronics and even in heating materials. Enjoying a surge in popularity, gold is trading at historically high prices not seen since the early 1980s, especially in emerging markets like China. From the masks of Egyptian pharaohs to modern earrings, bracelets and wristwatches, gold consistently provides high quality in personal jewelry.
Gold is a durable metal that will not rust, corrode or tarnish. Jewelers throughout the ages have preferred gold to all other metals for its beauty and ease of workmanship. Gold can be melted and shaped to create any design. It can be alloyed with a number of other metals to increase its strength and produce a variety of colors. The common colors are yellow, rose and white.
Gold content is measured in karats, not to be confused with the term carat used to measure diamond weight. The higher the karat, the greater its gold content and price. The K number specifies how many parts, by weight, of pure gold is contained in 24 parts of the alloy. Therefore, the content of pure gold in the various karats is as follows:
10k = 10/24 = 41.7 percent pure gold.
The decision between 14k and 18k is a matter of personal taste and preference. 14k has the advantages of added strength, but lacks higher gold content and beauty of the rich yellow color found in 18k.
The color of gold is determined by two factors. Yellow gold is alloyed with copper and silver for extra strength. Its natural tone enhances all skin types and gemstones. The concentration of yellow in yellow gold is influenced by its content. The larger or purer the karat, the brighter and deeper the yellow will appear. Pure 24 karat gold, gold with no alloys, would thus be the deepest of the colors. White gold is an alloy of gold and some white metals such as nickel, silver, and palladium. White gold can be 14k, 18k or any karat. Because 14k white gold is 58.3 percent gold, and 18k white gold is 75 percent gold, white gold will naturally have a light yellowish tint.
To give white gold its brilliant white luster, in the final process of manufacturing white gold is rhodium-plated. Rhodium is a shiny white metal, extremely hard and durable. Over time the rhodium plating may wear away, revealing the slightly yellowish tint of the underlying metal. To keep white gold looking its best, it may require rhodium re-plating every 12 to 18 months, depending on wear. Rose gold gets its color from a larger proportion of copper in the metal alloy. This gives the gold a beautiful pink color.
A piece of gold jewelry has the potential to last a lifetime. If properly stored and cared for, its spark will not fade as the years pass. However, to ensure jewelry does not diminish in appearance or quality, it must be treated with caution, care and concern.
The first and most important rule to remember is to avoid reckless or strenuous actions while wearing gold jewelry. Rings and bracelets should be removed prior to any athletic activity in order to protect them from dings and dents. The same precautions should be taken for household projects, job-related tasks or any action in which the potential for damage is high.
Avoid harsh chemicals while wearing your jewelry. General household cleaners can be abrasive and seriously weaken gold. Do not wear gold in swimming pools or Jacuzzis because chlorine can cause serious damage to the metal. In order to keep the shine of your jewelry, clean it on a regular basis. A preferred cleaning solution is sudsy, lukewarm water used with a soft tooth brush. Owners can also bring their jewelry to a professional cleaner to have it steam-cleaned. When drying, use a chamois or soft cloth to avoid scratches.
Always pay attention to the way two pieces of jewelry, especially rings, wear or abrade against one another. One of the most common causes of weakened prongs holding a diamond or a gemstone is another piece rubbing against it. In the case of two rings being worn on the same finger, the solution can be as simple as a thin spacer ring worn between the two to keep them apart.
Finally, a key to keeping your jewelry in top condition is proper storage. When your jewelry is not being worn, place it in a jewelry box or on a soft cloth. It is highly recommended that you store pieces separately so they do not rub against each other.