What Is Gold?
Possibly the first metal used by humans, gold was valued for ornaments, and magical powers were attributed to it. It is naturally a soft, light yellow to vivid yellow corrosion-resistant metal. It won't tarnish, rust, or corrode, and though it's very strong, it is also the most malleable of all metals. By definition, pure gold is 24 carats, and thus a 75% gold alloy is 18 carats. Chief producers are South Africa, the U.S., Russia, Australia, and Canada.
Yellow or White?
Gold in its pure form is too soft to withstand normal wear-and-tear caused from daily usage, so it is alloyed with other metals to give it strength. Because pure gold is too soft to resist prolonged handling, it is usually mixed with other metals to increase its hardness for use in jewelry. To produce various shades of yellow gold, it is alloyed, or mixed, with silver, copper and small amounts of zinc. Alloying it with nickel, palladium and zinc produces white gold. The color of these gold alloys goes from yellow to white as the proportion of nickel in them increases. Yellow gold and white gold have very similar strength and malleability. White gold looks very similar to platinum, but the two have very different properties and prices. Rhodium, which is a metal of the platinum family, is often used to plate white gold to produce a brighter, harder finish.
18 or 14 Karat?
The purity of gold is measured in karats, which are expressed in 24ths. Thus, Pure gold is 24-karat or 100 percent gold, 18-karat is 75 percent gold, 14-karat is 58.5 percent gold while 12-karat gold is 50 percent gold and 50 percent alloy. The price of gold jewelry is dependent upon the purity of the gold used or karat weight. When the karat weight or the gold percentage of the jewelry is high, the yellow color of gold is brighter, raising the value of the jewelry.
Taking Care of Gold Jewelry?
To clean gold jewelry, use a solution of warm water and detergent-free soap and wash gold gently with a soft-bristled brush (a dull tooth brush works well). To prolong gold's luster keep your gold jewelry away from harsh chemicals such as chlorine and cleaning fluids. Store gold pieces separately in soft cloth bags or original boxes.