Complete Guide to 24k Gold December 26, 2018 – Posted in: Jewelry Blog
All that glitters is not gold. It might be almost gold, though. It all depends on how much gold the gold contains. You may be confused by that, but gold can actually be confusing. In this article, we will explain what 24K gold actually means!
It is one of the very few materials where you can add other things to it, and it still just gets called “gold”.
Explaining Gold Fineness
Although we do call all gold “gold”, we qualify it by adding a fineness rating to it. You will have heard these expressed as 18k gold, 14k gold and so on. The number is relative to the amount of gold present, and the k is short for “karats”, the standard gold fineness measure.
Technically, almost all gold jewelry produced today is actually a gold alloy. When we say fineness, when referring to gold, we actually mean purity rather than any quality rating of the gold itself. The yellow gold makes up the bulk of the gold alloy, but it will also contain other metals. These can be silver, copper, nickel, platinum, palladium or others. Pure gold is not in common use for modern jewelry for a variety of reasons.
What Is 24k Gold?
When a system of measuring the purity of gold first appeared, it was along the lines of a 24 point scale. These points were called karats. The system is closely related to the carat (with a c) system for weighing diamonds but evolved over time to become a measure of purity or fineness, rather than weight.
The perceptive amongst you will have noticed that we are discussing 24k gold, and our scale has 24 points on it. A simple deduction will, quite rightly, lead you to the conclusion that 24k gold is actually pure gold. Or as pure as it gets, anyway.
24k gold is not, actually, 100% pure. Commercially available 24k gold is, in fact, 99.95% pure only, due to the lack of attainability of 100% purity. Gold has been refined further, but the practice is not commercially viable, and so we consider gold of 99.95% purity, or higher, as pure.
Why Have Other Grades?
Gold is expensive. It’s not diamond-expensive, but it is expensive nonetheless. Naturally, in order to appeal to people with various budgets, manufacturers like to produce products to match. The only way to do this is to reduce the cost of manufacture. And the only way to do that is to reduce the amount of gold used.
As we know, 24k gold is pure, so the other numbers in common use – 22k, 18k, 14k, 10k – all denote a gold purity relative to 24k. 14k gold, for example, is fourteen twenty fourths pure, or 58.3%. The other 41.7% will consist of other metals.
Why 24k Gold is Rarely Used For Jewelry
Gold, for all its beauty and high-value, has one inherent weakness, in that it is a very soft metal. This exposes the gold to a high rate of wear and tear. So soft is 24k gold, in fact, that a gold band can easily be bent out of shape with just bare hands. We used to see a lot of 24k gold wedding bands, but the rate of them requiring repair was extremely high. As well as often having deep scratches, many of the bands wore thin on the bottom due to constant contact with harder materials just in everyday use. Eventually, the band breaks and requires attention.
You can still buy 24k gold jewelry, but it is becoming less and less common.
24k Gold in Jewelry
If you are lucky enough to fine jewelry using 24k gold, it is likely to be antique. It is also likely to show signs of age that you wouldn’t see on platinum or silver jewelry of the same age. However, despite the potential pitfalls of owning 24k gold jewelry, the depth and quality of color in the metal is outstanding.
Because of the other metals in alloys at lower purities, the yellow color fades to a greater or lesser degree. If you add a drop of white paint to a tin of yellow paint and stir it in, it will change the color slightly. So it is the same with gold. If you add a white metal to yellow gold, they yellow tone becomes less vivid. The addition of copper to the alloy helps, but it isn’t the same.
Diamonds with warm tones look wonderful in yellow gold. The slight yellow tint of some diamonds becomes more noticeable thanks to the yellow color of the gold. Colorless diamonds can also look slightly yellow, and so aren’t quite so desirable. Colored gemstones also add very vivid contrast to the yellow gold. Rubies, especially, work very well.
Caring For 24k Gold Jewelry
Despite the softness of pure gold, it is actually quite easy to clean. If it is a simple wedding band, then warm water and a mild soap are all you need. If there is heavy dirt, in the hallmark for example, then you can leave the ring to soak for 20 minutes. This will do no harm to the ring.
If you have any gemstones in the setting, soaking is not a good idea. Many stones do not respond well to immersion in water. It is best to be safe and not leave the ring submerged for any period. Instead, use the soap/water mix, and a very soft toothbrush. These are available anywhere that sells baby products. With the wet brush, gently loosen the dirt from the ring. Take care not to apply pressure in case the stones become dislodged.
If necessary, let the ring dry naturally, and then try again. If you are in any doubt, take the ring for professional cleaning. Under no circumstances should you ever apply any chemicals to your ring. This includes supposed jewelry cleaners which are available. Also, never use an ultrasonic cleaner. These machines use vibrations to loosen the dirt, but they will also loosen the stones.
With care (and maybe the occasional repair) any 24k gold ring or other pieces will last a lifetime.