Gold attracts us with its luster, gleaming color and timelessness and thanks to these qualities, we can enjoy jewelry made from it for many years. At the same time, however, in its pure form, it is one of the softest known metals. It's actually so soft, that you could bend a pure gold coin with your hands. For this reason, 100% gold is used in jewelry only occasionally.
When shopping for gold jewelry, you will most often encounter the 14 karat and 18 karat varieties. At the KLENOTA jewelry studio, we work with 14 karat gold which has excellent technical properties that make it suitable for making handmade jewelry. It wins out over 18 karat gold due to its greater hardness, the fact that it does not get scratched as easily and that it is also more affordable. In short, it is ideal for everyday jewelry wear.
What is pure gold?
Gold is a chemical element that occurs naturally in various forms such as sheets, wires, nuggets or flakes. It has a rich metallic yellow color and is also quite heavy. It is unique because it’s highly resistant to corrosion, acids and alkalis as well as to other environmental influences. On the other hand, its disadvantage is its relative softness. As a result, in the past, gold medal winning athletes were able to verify the authenticity of their medal by biting into it. If there were visible bite marks from their teeth, the medal was made of pure gold. However pure gold is almost never used in jewelry making. The jewelry would distort out of shape and would not polish well so the solution is to alloy or mix the gold with other metals. It is a process in which the melted gold is combined with other melted metals under specific conditions and in a precisely given ratio.
The most widely used gold in Czech jewelry is 14k gold, which is stamped with the mark 585/1000. This means that it contains 58.5% pure gold and 41.5% of other metals. Similarly, 18k gold is marked 750/1000 and contains 75% gold and 25% of other alloys. Jewelry with a lower purity of gold is also commonly sold in other countries and you may be able to find such pieces among Czech antique jewelry.
The alloys added to gold allow for an infinite number of subtle but also relatively unconventional and distinctive gold colors. Green, purple and brown gold is no exception but there are still only three classics - namely yellow, rose and white gold.
If you own a number of pieces of yellow gold jewelry which have various origins and ages, it is also quite possible that they will differ slightly in color. The yellow gold they are made from would also contain silver and copper and their ratio in the various gold pieces might vary. The copper content in gold makes the metal harder but at the same time more brittle and colors it more red, while silver will lighten its color. Compared to alloyed gold, pure 100% gold is distinctly more deep yellow to yellow-orange in color.
The secret behind white gold is a bit more complicated and the usual gold-silver-copper alloy combination won’t do in this case. With white gold, it is necessary to add an element that will cover up the distinctive yellow color of gold. The most common alloy mixes used are gold-palladium-silver and gold-nickel-copper-zinc. Gold alloys with nickel excel with their hardness and are therefore suitable for making rings. On the other hand, gold alloys with palladium are called gray gold. This gold is more expensive and also softer. So each element combined with gold affects the end properties of the gold as well as its price.
You may also not be aware that the color of white gold ranges from very pale yellow, to brownish, gray, and soft pink. That sought after cool silvery shade is achieved only with a surface layer of white rhodium, which the finished jewelry is plated with. White gold jewelry at our KLENOTA jewelry studio also goes through this process. The rhodium not only has an aesthetic but also a protective function. As a result of it, jewelry is more resistant to scratches and its surface stays looking as new for longer. However we are also aware of the fact that some people may like the original look of the white gold without rhodium plating. If you are interested in non-rhodium plated jewelry, please request this in a note at the time you place your order.
Gold and new innovations
It isn’t just the creative spirit of a designer but science too which will often blow a breath of fresh air through the craft of jewelry making. We constantly experiment with the materials that jewelry is made from. And even a traditional metal like gold is no exception. Testing various combinations of alloys in it can lead to interesting results. One of them is called Spangold which has a gold-copper-aluminum composition patented by the company MINTEK. It was discovered by scientists in South Africa in the early 1990s. Depending on the amount of aluminum and copper, the gold is either pink or yellow. Based on the temperature it is exposed to, it undergoes a phase transformation, when it changes its crystalline structure. The process of this transformation is reversible and the transition between the individual phases is displayed through a change in the pattern on the gold’s surface. We call this shape memory effect. It creates small areas that are seemingly disordered and glitter beautifully.
Is it worth buying gold-plated jewelry?
A cheaper alternative to real gold jewelry is gold plated jewelry. Such jewelry is not made of gold, but from a cheaper metal and it acquires its attractive color only as a result of a thin layer of gold which is applied to the surface of the metal. At first, such jewelry may look just like real gold jewelry, but unfortunately its beauty is fleeting. The surface plating is not permanent and over time the layer of gold will wear out and the base metal will begin to reveal itself on the surface. Restoring the jewelry to its original look is not easy because most jewelry stores do not offer gold plating as a service. With foreign jewelry, you may also come across white gold which was created by plating yellow gold with a layer of rhodium. This is against the rules however and it should not happen as only the white gold alloy should be referred to as white gold.
At the KLENOTA jewelry studio, our goldsmiths hand craft timeless jewelry made of beautiful, high-quality and durable 14k gold. With most jewelry pieces, you can also choose the color of the gold - you just need to specify it when you make your order.