Fun Facts About Gold Jewelry I Bet You Didn’t Know

facts-about-gold-jewelry

As I mentioned last week, I’ve been doing a bit of fine jewelry shopping, and learning some kooky things about gold along the way. Here are some of the more interesting tidbits I’ve picked up. Enjoy!

There’s More Markings Than You Think

Karat, Percentage & Plating

You’re probably familiar with the standard gold markings of 14K, 18K, etc., but did you know gold jewelry can also be marked by gold percentage? This chart gives the common stamp markings you can find on gold jewelry and what they mean.

common-gold-jewelry-markings

Also, be sure to inspect a jewelry piece for ALL markings. A piece can be marked 18K, followed by another marking that could signify it’s not solid 18K gold, but actually only plated on the surface with a layer of 18K gold. Common gold-plating marking to look for are…

gold-plated-jewelry-markings

Any other markings on a gold jewelry piece could be a makers mark, which is great because then you can trace your piece back to who made it!

Alloy Mixes Aren’t Standardized

Those Metals That Are Mixed With Your Gold

Any gold under pure 24K is mixed with alloy metals to harden and make it cost-effective, with some mixture of copper and silver being most popular. The mixture percentages are not standardized, so depending on the fluctuating cost of alloy metals, manufacturer, or desired color, your gold piece can have a different hue from other pieces of the same gold purity karat.

In this same vein, to achieve a better color, lower gold purity karats are often mixed with higher percentages of copper for a darker, redder color. Sometimes, 10K gold can look “golder” than 14K because of this.

The photo below is admittedly hard to tell (the color difference is much more evident in real life), but the 10K gold ring is slightly redder and darker in color than its purer 14K gold sister. This is because the 10K gold ring has had more copper (which has a red hue) added, to counteract the lack of yellow hue due to it’s more diluted gold content. The effect is almost that of rose gold.

gold-14k-vs-10k

Patina

Can Change The Look Of Your Gold

Metals oxidize over time due to exposure to air. This creates a thin layer on top of the jewelry piece that usually turns it darker and gives it a more matte finish. Vintage items are often described as having a “patina”. A patina is simply the color and texture oxidation gives the piece over time. Some people love a good patina, while others polish their jewelry regularly to get rid of it. The patina on vintage jewelry can make it look darker than new jewelry bought today, even if it’s the same karat purity. Personally, I love a good patina. ;)

Of course, some of the color differences could also be from differences in the alloy metals used to create the piece. Below, the vintage ring could have a touch more copper than it’s newer counterpart, which could also make it a little darker and redder in color.

gold-14k-new-vs-vintage

White Gold Is Actually Yellow

White gold is actually a very pale shade of yellow (the gold is mixed with silver-colored metals, such as nickel or palladium), and often times is plated with a layer of bright white rhodium for that “white gold” look we’re all so familiar with. Over time and wear, the rhodium layer can wear off, revealing the piece’s true pale yellow color…some food for thought if you plan on getting white gold as your wedding ring set. The good news: a jeweler can re-plate your white gold pieces with rhodium if the coating has worn off and the resulting pale yellow color isn’t your cup of tea.

Alternatives to white gold that will not turn yellow over time are platinum and sterling silver.

Put It All Together

As I collect pieces, I’m constantly comparing them to each other, sometimes with frustration at their varying colors. A great example is below. A newer 14K chain necklace I recently bought looks almost pale green next to a vintage 14K chain necklace, which looks nearly red. There are a myriad of reasons why they could look so different, such as patina, reflection of light off a high polish surface (makes things look lighter in color) vs. a matte surface, and alloy metal content. Crazy, huh?

gold-14k-dark-vs-light

12 Comments

  • Thank you for this post! It was very helpful and I too am saving it as a reference. I recently got engaged and am wearing my mom’s white gold engagement ring. I swore it was starting to look light gold but I couldn’t figure out why. Now I know! I’m sorry if you’ve mentioned this before, but have you ever gotten rings or gold bracelets sized down? I need to get my mom’s engagement ring sized down, but I imagine it’s the type of thing I should only have done once. If you have any thoughts on that, I’d appreciate it. My ring is 18K if that makes any difference. Thanks again for the post!

  • fantastin information! Wish I’d known about whit gold 50 yrs ago. But, who knew anything then! I have had my ding with 9 diamonds coated twice. Wowza! The Sparkle almost blinded everyone. In the sun it was a show stopper.

  • Thanks for the info…I have a darker 10k gold chain but the cross that hangs from it is a lighter gold hue. Can I somehow add a petina to make the cross match the chain? The cross is also 10k…is there anything I can do to make my chain and cross match? I would appreciate if you can help me with my situation…Thank you for reading my comment.

    • Hi Mike. I’d ask a jeweler to see if there’s something they can do. There are chemicals that can replicate a patina, but I’m not sure if any of them would be safe for 10K gold. Also, a jeweler could add a light gold plate to your cross for a darker color. Good luck!

  • I bought gold earrings at a jeweller, I believe they are 14 karat and after a few weeks they turned rose gold. I can polish it away with my jewellery cloth, but it comes back again almost 24 hours after wearing them. Ive been to several jewellers and no one can tell me what is causing this.
    Any suggestions on why this may be happening ? It also happens with my sterling silver jewellery- the reason I swapped to gold.

    • Hi Kate! It sounds to me like your unique skin chemistry might be causing this. In the same way your skin can cause certain makeup foundations to turn orange as it reacts to your natural oils and sweats, metals can do similar things through the process of oxidation.

  • hello,

    I just got a new rose gold ring and when I asked the jeweler to make it have that patina “vintage” effect he said that it can’t be done to gold. That it can only be done with fake jewelry. Is there any way to mattify the gold? or give it that age effect as if it’s been found in a treasure chest in the bottom of the ocean (lol)?

    thanks in advance!

  • Great read! So helpful and informative – thank you! My fiancé gave me his mother’s old engagement ring, but had it resized; the jeweler added a tiny piece of “new” gold to the band. I’ve only been wearing it for 4 months and today on the new piece of added gold there is a tiny “blob” marking of a reddish/rose color. On the inside of the older gold there is marked 10K, so I believe the jeweler tried to match the new gold to the old… but then why hasn’t anything happened to the old gold? The old gold also has a design on it (on the band), and the new gold does not- as it rests on the palm side down of my finger. How can I remove the new marking on the ring?

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