Flying the Gold Standard Which Gold? And Why?
Gold finesses 9ct, 14ct, 18ct, 22ct and 24ct
• How gold purity is measure
• Different purity levels
• Why pure gold generally isn’t used for jewellery
• The advantages and disadvantages of 9ct, 14ct, 18ct, 22ct and 24ct gold
• Some considerations to help you choose right type of gold for your jewellery
When you’re choosing the gold for a ring or other jewellery, it’s important to keep factors such as skin sensitivity, career, activity level and aesthetic taste in mind.
HOW GOLD PURITY IS MEASURED
The purity of gold is categorised using the carat system that measures the ratio of pure gold to other alloys in a piece of gold jewellery. The greater the amount of pure gold, the higher the purity level.
‘Caratage’ is the measurement of purity of gold alloyed with other metals.
Gems are also measured in carats.
DIFFERENT PURITY LEVELS
Each type of gold has a different purity level. Pure gold, or 24ct gold, is 100% pure. Lower caratages contain less gold:
22 carat gold is 91.6% pure gold (22 parts out of 24 pure gold and 2 parts alloy).
18 carat gold is 75% pure gold (18 parts out of 24 pure gold and 6 parts alloy).
14 carat gold is 58.5% pure gold (14 parts out of 24 pure gold and 10 parts alloy).
9 carat gold is 37.5% pure gold (9 parts out of 24 pure gold and 15 parts alloy).
The minimum caratage for an item to be called gold varies by country. In the UK, 9 carat is the legal minimum accepted standard of gold caratage.
Educate yourself on the different standards of gold available.
WHY PURE GOLD GENERALLY ISN’T USED FOR JEWELLERY
24ct gold isn’t used very often for jewellery because:
• It’s extremely soft. It distorts easily, making it a poor metal for jewellery that needs to retain its shape over a period of time.
• Pure gold scratches easily.
• It’s very bright. The colour of pure gold is brighter and more orange than people commonly associate with the gold used in jewellery.
• It’s very expensive. Compared to 14ct gold, 24ct gold contains almost double the amount of gold. As a result, the price of 24ct is much higher.
THE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF 9CT, 14CT, 18CT, 22CT AND 24CT GOLD
Each level of gold purity offers its own advantages and disadvantages, from hardness and durability, to the risk of certain levels of gold purity contributing to skin irritation.
9ct Gold: (37.5% gold and 62.5% alloyed metals)
• Advantages: 9ct gold is the most durable, least pure, and lowest priced type of gold. Cost and durability are the biggest advantages of 9ct gold jewellery.
• Disadvantages: It has a pale appearance, with a significantly less rich yellow tone than 14ct or 18ct gold.
• It is more likely to trigger metal allergies. 9ct gold is the least pure, it’s also the most impure that gold can be while remaining legally “gold”.
• Consider this: Although it’s widely used in affordable jewellery, 9ct gold isn’t a very popular metal for engagement rings and fine jewellery. Many high-end, luxury jewellery retailers don’t even offer 9ct gold pieces due to its relatively low gold content. And -if you are a non-allergic person on a low budget, you can still enjoy the durability and luxury of gold.
14ct Gold: (58% gold and 42% alloyed metals)
• Advantages: A great combination of purity, durability and value for money. Compared to 18ct gold, the main advantages of 14ct gold are its durability and affordability. Rings and other jewellery made using 14ct gold are more durable than those made with 18ct gold.
• Disadvantages: The downside of 14ct gold is its potential to trigger skin irritation. Because 14ct gold has a higher alloy content than 18ct gold, it can occasionally result in itchy, uncomfortable skin if you have a metal allergy.
• The colour of 14ct gold is less intense compared to 18ct.
• Consider this: This alloy offers more resistance to wear and tear than either 18ct or 22ct. If you have an active lifestyle (sports, regular exercise, manual labour, etc.), 14ct jewellery would be the best option for you.
18ct Gold: (75% gold and 25% alloyed metals)
• Advantages: 18ct gold has the classic, rich yellow appearance. Since 18ct gold is almost pure, it is ideal for allergy sufferers, as it does not cause allergic skin reactions.
• Disadvantages: since it’s quite pure, it’s fairly easy to scratch. If you’re active or work in a setting where your ring might graze hard surfaces, 18ct gold might not be the best choice for rings. Theses have more contact with surfaces than jewellery such as bracelets, earrings, and necklaces, which have hardly any, or too little contact, to be impacted by it.
• 18ct gold is also significantly more expensive than other types of gold. Compared to a 14ct gold ring, which looks similar but is not quite as bright or saturated, an 18ct ring will cost perhaps twice as much.
• Consider this: This is the most traditional mix of gold and other metals. 18ct pieces have a luxurious and richer yellow tone than 14ct. Because of the higher gold content in 18ct pieces, it is more expensive than 14ct, and is usually a sign of a higher quality piece of jewellery.
Just be aware that this type of gold is quite soft and could scratch easily while you or your partner work or exercise. However, 18ct gold might not mind doing the gym workout, and will look good at the same time!
If you prefer luxury and practicability, then 18ct gold is a great choice.
22ct Gold: (92% gold and 8% alloyed metals)
• Advantages: Even a modest mixture of only 8% alloyed metal makes 22 carat gold a touch stronger and more durable than pure gold.
• Disadvantage: Care will need to be taken with this blend as it’s still the softest form of mixed metal jewellery.
• Consider this: Although pure, but soft, it is beautiful and with little allergic response.
24ct Gold: (100% pure gold)
• Advantages: The rich yellow colour of pure gold will not tarnish. Its best use is in necklaces and bracelets rather than rings.
Its purity means no allergic response.
• Disadvantage: Its purity makes it easier to scratch or abrade, and its softness leaves it vulnerable to bending or distortion. Expense might be a disadvantage, depending on your budget.
• Consider this: Being the highest carat of gold, it’s easy to assume that 24ct is the “best” gold to buy, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Pure gold can be easily scratched and bent, making it impractical for daily wear (yet the most expensive). Although you might fancy doing your workout while wearing 24ct bracelets, the jewellery might not appreciate it! Generations later, it will still be the gleaming gold it was originally, if cared for.
SO, WHICH ONE IS BEST? 24CT, 22CT, 18CT, OR 14CT OR 9CT? HOW TO CHOOSE?
There isn’t a clear answer — it depends on factors such as requirement, use and finance! Your decision should be influenced by how often you’ll wear the jewellery, what you’ll be doing when you wear it, the colouring you prefer, your budget and the effect you want. What does your jewellery say about you?
Agneta Bugyte jewellery uses mostly 18ct yellow gold – because it’s the best gold option for my jewellery: it has the richest, most luxurious, deep yellow colour, which looks gorgeous on black patinated silver.
The white gold I use in my work is 18ct and has a high palladium content: this makes a whiter than 18-carat gold [hence the name of ‘white gold’]; it does not need rhodium plating, and is nickel free.
A very important factor in my work is its longevity. Gold in its purest form never tarnishes. Pure gold dug up in mediaeval hoards has the same brilliance it had when it was buried, hundreds of years previously. However, gold used for jewellery is mostly mixed with other metals, allowing some tarnish to develop (more about it in my next post), and for all the factors above, 18ct gold is the best option for my jewellery. Its depth of colour is rich, luxurious and beautiful. It is the optimal blend for practicality and allure.
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