Gold, part 1 of 2

Today I’m going to provide some information on gold used in jewelry including karat gold, gold vermeil and gold plating. Much of this information was initially confusing to me which is why I chose to learn more about it. I hope you find it interesting and informative and that it improves your confidence when you purchase jewelry!

Did you know that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) publishes guidelines for precious metals and jewelry? Gold fineness markings and descriptions have very specific definitions under U.S. law, but remember, products purchased in other countries may follow different legal requirements. And, unfortunately some sellers may purposely misrepresent their products’ purity.   See the sources at the end of this posting for more information.

Gold, part 1 of 2: The Basics

Gold has been used for jewelry for centuries and has been found in archaeological sites in Egypt and South America as well as in many other areas of the world.

Karat (kt) Gold:

Pure gold is 24 karat (kt), meaning 24 out of 24 parts are gold, in other words, “pure” gold. 24kt gold is very soft and not practical for jewelry as it is too malleable. To make it stronger, gold is alloyed with other metals.   Alloy metals may include copper, silver, nickel, zinc, tin, palladium and/or manganese. These alloys can also give the gold different colors (yellow, rose, white and green). In addition, the higher the percentage of the alloy vs. gold, the lower the cost of the finished metal. See the table below for the conversion from karat to gold content.

Common karat (or fineness) values seen in jewelry Approximate % gold
24 100
22 92
18 75
14 58
12 50
10 42

I have often been asked whether white or yellow gold is “better”. 14 kt white gold has the same amount of gold as 14 kt yellow gold. It is the percentage of gold that matters, not the other metals used to provide durability and color.

Next week, Gold, Part 2 of 2: Platings.

Thanks for reading!




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