As far as precious metals in jewellery goes, gold is as good as it gets. For as long as humankind has roamed the earth, gold has been a coveted commodity, and this is still very much the case today. It has survived countless changes in fashion, and gone through several periods of unpopularity, only to emerge as it recently did, more popular than ever before.
The purity of gold is measured using the karat system, under which most articles made of gold is imprinted with a number followed by “kt”, such as 22kt, which would mean 22 karats, or almost fully pure. The list below contains further details on the numeric values in the karat system:
- 8kt or 8k is very uncommon, from my experience of over a decade and handling 1000′s of pieces of used jewelry I’ve only encountered 2-4 pieces of 8 karats.
- 9kt or 9k is the second lowest that can be found, and is 37.5% gold by purity, most common in the U.K. including England, Scotland and Ireland
- 10kt or 10k is 41.67% purity, this can be found in many countries but most prevalent in North America.
- 12kt is exactly 50% gold by purity, or half, quite rare, more of an old hallmark, any piece bearing a 12k mark will be quite old.
- 14kt or 14k 58.33% purity, again quite a common hallmark that can be found in a wide range of countries.
- 15c or 15ct is another old mark from the U.K. not very common here in North America, I’ve only seen one piece here marked with a 15ct and it is/was an old pocket watch chain that I’ve kept to this day on my brother in laws advice.
- 18kt or 18k gold has 75% purity. This is usually the most popular with high-end jewellers, because of its combination of deep yellow colour while retaining a good strength level.
- 21kt most popular in the mid east, contain 87.3 actual gold content
- 22kt or 22k gold is 91.67% purity, also found mostly in the mid east, India, Pakistan and Asia.
- 24kt is quite rare, mainly people think they have 24k but it is usually closer to 22k, 99.99% gold by purity, as close as you can get to absolutely pure gold. 24 karat gold, at this level of purity is rather rare, because 24kt gold is very soft, and therefore too malleable and deformable for use in everyday jewellery.
The market for diamond jewellery accounts for some of the most expensive and exquisite items crafted in the world. Due to the cost of the materials required (the high-purity gold and the gemstones), its creation is usually restricted to the most skilled jewellers, such as those from the in-house staff at high end fashion marques like Bulgari, or private jewellery houses that deal with exclusive clientele.
For the equally sophisticated but less ostentatious, there is a fantastic alternative to diamonds and yellow gold – that being the increasing popular white gold. White gold is an alloy of gold and a white metal, such as palladium (which, incidentally, is much more expensive than gold). White gold is much harder than yellow gold, allowing it to be used for pieces that require durability due to everyday wear, such as wedding rings. For this exact reason, white gold is equally popular in the worlds of women’s and mens jewellery. More important than its physical characteristics, though, is the visual appeal of white gold – many people believe it to be less flashy, and therefore slightly more elegant, than yellow gold. Of course, tastes vary; and as a general rule, white gold does not look as good as yellow gold on people with darker skin tones, as dark skin and yellow gold create a very remarkable contrast.
Gold can be made into many forms including rings, necklaces, chains, earrings, pendants, bracelets, charms, gold bangles and more. It is also serving as the base used for many others forms of jewellery including bridal, diamond, crystal and pearl jewellery crossing all ethnic barriers and regions in the world.
The fashion trends these days seem to be swinging away from the simple designs of simpler days, and towards more ornate styles that incorporate gemstones (not just diamonds but also semi-precious stones such as emeralds, rubies, sapphires, amethysts, etc) heavier chains, bracelets and gold rings. However, no matter how much the nature of the designs shift, it is a very safe assumption to say that fine gold jewellery will never go out of style. In fact, with the recent meteoric rise of the price of gold on the commodity markets, most items made of gold are now worth much more than they have ever been. This has led to a revitalization in the popularity of gold, which in turn has spurred a boost of the supply of such jewellery by high-end crafting houses, which again boosts consumer demand. The times may change, but the basic elements of taste will always remain the same – and gold is one of these.