Scientific Symbol: Au

Gold has been the most sought after of precious metals through all the ages of man. Its value dates back to prehistoric times. Gold was the first metal utilized by humans for jewelry and ceremony. It has served as money, a store of value, and as jewelry. Gold occurs as nuggets or grains in rocks. Gold will not tarnish, rust, or corrode.

Pure gold is considered too soft for jewelry use in Western society. Western cultures are concerned that pure gold jewelry will easily be scratched or deformed. In Western culture, gold is mixed with metals such as silver, copper, nickel, or zinc to give it strength and durability.

In India and many Middle Eastern countries, bracelets and necklaces are often made of pure gold. This enables people to “wear” their wealth.

The “Karatage” of gold is shown with a number followed by “k”. This refers to it’s purity, or the amount of true gold included in the metal. 100% gold is traditionally referred to as 24 karat. Please see the chart below for a full breakdown of how karatage applies to gold.


24 karat

22 karat

18 karat

14 karat

12 karat

10 karat

9 karat

Percentage of Gold

100% gold

91.7% gold

75.0% gold

58.3% gold

50.0% gold

41.7% gold

37.5% gold


Too soft for jewelry

Very soft — not recommended for jewelry

Recommended for fine jewelry

Recommended for jewelry

Rarely acceptable for jewelry

The legal karat limit considered as real gold in the US

A standard for gold jewelry in some British Isles

The value of gold jewelry is dependent upon the karat weight, as well as the design, construction and beauty of the piece.

Solid gold has been mentioned as the choice for jewelry in many Middle Eastern countries and India. If a person is allergic to nickel or other alloy metals then 18 karat, 22 karat or even pure gold may be their jewelry of choice. Gold filled or plated jewelry will serve for occasionally worn jewelry. Every day use of gold plated jewelry will wear down the gold layer. This may result in discoloration of your skin or an allergic reaction. For pieces that will last a lifetime, buy the highest quality your budget allows.

The color of gold is determined by:

  1. The metal alloys with which it is mixed.
  2. The percentage of each metal alloy in the total composition of the piece.

Yellow Gold found in jewelry is most often 14k or 18k. Because 14k jewelry has less gold in its composition, its color is not as rich as 18k jewelry. 14k gold will be the composition of choice when strength and durability are desirable. Examples might be earring backs, bracelet clasps, or a gold necklace or religious chain that is to be worn every day.

Jewelry grade gold is created by mixing it with rhodium, nickel, or Palladium. To many, rhodium is the alloy of choice because of its tough hard shine. Nickel can be mixed with gold to create a white (gray) color, but it may cause dermatitis in people sensitive to it. Palladium may also be used to create white gold but is less commonly used to do so.

The addition of extra copper creates “Rose gold”. The addition of extra copper gives gold a beautiful pink color; the more copper, the deeper the effect.

Gold should be kept away from harsh chemicals. Warm water and detergent-free soap may be used with a soft-bristled brush (a dull tooth brush works well) to clean gold jewelry.