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History of Gold and Golden Jewelry
Have you ever wondered why gold jewelry is so popular and desirable, not to mention expensive? A look into the history of gold reveals how people of every culture, time period, and nation have fought wars and built fortunes based on the allure of gold. Pronounced a symbol of wealth and power since ancient times, gold still proves to be one of the most coveted metals today. Its brilliance inspired the Incas to cover every wall of its magnificent Temple of the Sun in gold in the 14th century. Its riches inspired Cortes to defeat Montezuma and seize the Aztec’s vast gold stores in the 15th century. And its contagious fever captivated thousands to migrate west for the California Gold Rush in 1848.
Gold jewelry, though a mass-marketed product today, occupies a rich history that dates back to the beginning of civilization. Following the fall of the Roman Empire, the mining and production of gold halted for nearly 1000 years until the Spanish discovered America in 1492. Cortes invaded Mexico and seized its gold treasures in an effort to revive Spain’s economy in 1519. In 1531, Pizarro invaded Peru and captured the Incas’ ruler Atahualpa, immediately melting down the Inca’s golden artifacts to ship back to Spain. Earlier on, the Incas, who considered gold “the sweat of the sun,” conquered the Chimu Empire and made the Chimu goldsmiths cover every inch of The Temple of the Sun’s walls in gold.
Though the Spanish conquerors exhausted gold artifacts and mines, over 90% of the world’s gold has been produced since the gold rush of 1848. Gold mining took on a much larger dimension after the discovery of Sutter’s Mill on the American River in 1848. Soon after, gold was discovered in Australia and South Africa. These discoveries and supplementary increase in gold supply marked a turning point-gold, once a rare metal afforded only by royalty was now more attainable by people of all classes.
In modern day, Italy has remained at the forefront of the gold jewelry industry. The Italian Renaissance coincided with the discoveries of the new sources of gold, and wealthy Italian patrons supported goldsmiths as they did painters and sculptors. Today, factories that automate hundreds of machines that “knit” gold wire into chain flourish in the towns of Aires, Geneve, and Vicenza.
Pihder said it best nearly 2,500 years ago when he wrote, “Gold is the child of Zeus, neither moth nor rust devoureth it.” Indeed, its beauty is timeless and materiality enduring, proving a powerful combination that will ensure gold’s coveted stature through time.
Different Colors of Gold
Have you ever wondered where gold obtains its wide array of colors? If it is yellow by nature, how do you make it white? The answer lies in it’s highly malleable property that allows a skilled jeweler to create new colors and designs. Jewelers prefer gold to other metals not only for its brilliance, but ease in which it can be molded and mixed with other metals. However, pure gold is easily scratched and slightly dull in color, which limits durability in every day golden jewelry. Instead, it is alloyed with other metals, such as copper, silver, nickel, palladium, and zinc, which increase its strength and its color.
In its purest form of 24 karats, the metal dons a deep, orange shade of yellow. When fused with other metals, however, its shade will vary. Copper, being red, will cause gold to become redder. Silver, zinc, and other white/gray metals will cause it to become paler. Alloying gold with other metals follows the principle of mixing colors; therefore, lower karat gold often has a wider array of colors than higher karat gold because more alloying metals are added.
Bright Yellow Pure Gold, Copper, Fine Silver
White Pure Gold, Copper, Nickel, Zinc
Rose Pure Gold, Copper
Deep Green Gold, Fine Silver, Copper, Zinc
Bright Red Pure Gold, Aluminum
In today’s jewelry, traditional yellow gold remains the most popular, followed by white gold, two-tone gold, and tri-color gold. Two-tone gold jewelry is comprised of yellow gold and white gold. It is versatile because it can match with any combination of yellow gold, white gold, and platinum. Tri-color gold is comprised of yellow gold, rose gold, and white or green gold. Tri-color was popularized by Black Hills gold, which is made in South Dakota. The use of three colors tends to make designs more distinct. Whether it is radiant yellow, polished white, or a shade in between, the natural characteristic of gold is that it shines brightly in any hue and looks exquisite in every ray of light.
As a jewelry consumer, you have probably encountered the term “karats”. 24 karats denotes 100% pure gold. Any karat value below 24 is the amount of pure gold that occupies the gold jewelry alloy. For example, 18 karat equals 18/24ths of pure gold which is 75% gold. Likewise, 14 karat equals 14/24ths of pure gold which is 58.5% gold. The remaining mixture of non-gold metals are not very important in determining value, but are primarily used to increase strength and vary color in gold jewelry.
This variation in karatage value accounts for differences in prices and colors of gold. The lower the karatage value, the wider the array of colors and lower the price. 14k gold jewelry generally ranges from $20-$30 per gram, while 18k gold jewelry ranges from $27-37 per gram. In addition, properties such as hardness and durability are enhanced as gold is alloyed, allowing for greater scratch resistance and less vulnerability to damage.
The most popular karatage for jewelry in the US and Europe is 14k and 18k. In the Middle East, India, and South East Asia, 22k jewelry is very popular. In China and Hong Kong, “chuk kam” or pure gold jewelry of at least 990 fineness is a traditional gift for special occasions like marriage. (990 fineness means 99% gold) Fineness is just another way of measuring gold content per thousand parts. So 18k, which is 75% gold becomes 750 parts of gold per thousand parts in fineness. Below is a chart that shows the differences in popular karats.
Karats Parts Gold Percentage Gold European Fineness Preferences
24k 24/24 99.9% 999 China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, “Chuk Kam”
22k 22/24 91.6% 916 India
18k 18/24 75.0% 750 Designer Jewelry
14k 14/24 58.5% 585 Most popular worldwide
10k 10/24 41.7% 417 Minimum in USA
9k 9/24 37.5% 375 UK Standard
8k 8/24 33.3% 333 Minimum in Germany
In many countries, the law requires that every item of gold jewelry be clearly stamped with its karatage. This is often controlled through hallmarking, a system which originated in London at Goldsmiths’ Hall in the 14th century. US law requires hallmarking of all gold jewelry and the legal minimum gold karatage is 10k. When buying gold jewelry, always make sure that it is properly stamped with the karatage. Also, make sure that you know the karatage and price when buying gold jewelry. Although the color may not differ much, the actual value between 10k and 18k gold differs greatly.
How to Buy Gold and Gold Jewelry
Unless you are a frequent jewelry buyer, you may feel uneasy about spending a significant amount of your hard-earned money on expensive jewelry. Even jewelry lovers at times are confused about the true value of gold jewelry. So what are the key factors to look at when purchasing gold jewelry? The value of a gold jewelry piece is comprised of karatage, gram weight, design, and craftsmanship (or quality).
Is the gold 10k, 14k, or 18k? While the difference in color may be subtle to the eye, there is a great difference in price. 10k is only 41.7% pure gold and 18k is 75% pure gold, so you can expect to pay more for higher karat gold jewelry. Typically, 10k gold jewelry ranges from $14-$20 per gram, 14k gold jewelry ranges from $20-$30 per gram, and 18k gold jewelry ranges from $27-37 per gram. Always look for a karat hallmark stamped on the jewelry piece.
How many grams does the item weigh? This factor is very important because it shows how much gold is used to make the item. Generally, the higher the gram weight, the more expensive and stronger the jewelry is. For example, one pair of huggy earrings may be wafer thin, weigh only 2 grams and cost $60. A similar pair of huggy earrings may be slightly thicker, weigh 4 grams, and cost $80. Which is a better deal? Although the answer is debatable, I would say the second pair of earrings is a better deal for two reasons. First, the price per gram for the second pair of earrings is $20 per gram, as opposed to $30 per gram for the lighter earrings. Secondly, you get twice as much gold for paying only $20 more. I would rather have more gold, not because I plan to pawn the jewelry some day, but because more gold usually means the item is stronger and less likely to bend or break.
Design refers to the unique and intricate patterns, engravings, and finishes on gold jewelry. There are various finishes, like brushed, matte, and satin, which cost more than a regular polished finish. You can expect to pay a higher price/gram for decorative finishes, multiple gold colors, and new styles. In addition, any type of custom design work by hand increases the cost of the item significantly.
Today, most jewelry is manufactured by precision machines that adhere to strict quality standards. Still, most jewelry requires a jeweler’s handiwork for its finishing touches. The key points to check are areas where the jewelry moves or where separate pieces join together. Always inspect clasps, settings, and latches because they are most likely to break. Is it secure? Does it feel strong? Will it snag easily? Also, jewelry is sometimes marked by the country of origin. For example, Italian jewelry, renowned for their craftsmanship, is usually marked “Italy”. With proper care, a well-crafted piece of jewelry should last for years.
There are so many merchants claiming 40%-60% off promotions that you should question whether they are true discounts, or just inflated “deals”. The “regular” price of many of these so-called discounts are purposely inflated to begin with, so 50% off an over-priced item doesn’t mean you are getting a bargain. This doesn’t mean that you cannot find a great deal on jewelry. But to prevent yourself from being duped by deceptive pricing, pay careful attention to the quality of the jewelry piece, make comparisons with various retailers, and ask plenty of questions.
All of the above criteria can be summarized by one golden rule. When buying gold jewelry, find the karatage, design, and craftsmanship that you desire. Then find the jewelry store that meets your requirements with the lowest price per gram and you will be confident with your purchase.
Caring for Your Gold Jewelry
Do you know the 4 simple rules that will keep your gold jewelry looking new? It is a very durable metal but its luster can fade with time. But with proper care, yours can last a lifetime.
Rule #1- Don’t wear your golden jewelry twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week
While many of us love to wear our favorite pieces day and night, the most effective way to preserve them is to limit the exposure to daily elements.
Many personal care products can be harmful to your piece. This includes lotion, make-up, perfume, shaving cream, and hairspray. These daily elements can form a dull film that covers the gold and is hard to remove. You can easily prevent this by removing them before grooming.
Rule #2- Avoid chlorine bleach at all costs
Never clean them with any chlorine bleach substance. Chlorine bleach ruins it by oxidizing the metal and turning it black.
Remove them before you do any household chores. Some common household cleaners have bleach and other chemicals that may adversely affect them.
Do not go swimming or in a hot tub with your golden accessory. Because of the chlorine, prolonged exposure to a swimming pool can turn it into a black color.
Rule #3- Clean your piece properly
Light tarnish can be removed by using soap water and a soft bristle brush. After gentle scrubbing, rinse and dry with a cotton cloth. You can also use a specially treated cloth or other cleaning products.
For gold jewelry without colored gemstones, you can use an ultrasonic cleaning machine.
For heavy tarnish, please consult your jeweler for the best cleaning method.
Rule #4- Proper storage is a must
Dry your gold jewelry before storage. Moisture can weaken springs and clasps, which increases the likelihood of breakage.
Provide ample space for storage. They should not be in direct contact with other pieces because they can scratch each other. Most boxes have separate compartments so that you can keep them separate.
If you find yourself asking these questions we are here to help you get paid top dollar for your items. At Manhattan Buyers, we've made things easy to sell jewelry and make it profitable for you. Call Manhattan Buyers right now and earn the highest prices for your old and scrap gold,
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