Gold is one of the most popular minerals on Earth. Scientifically, it has the atomic number 79 in the table of elements. For those with no scientific background, gold can easily be distinguished by its metallic yellow color and very soft quality in its pure form.
Gold is solid under standard conditions and can usually be found as grains or deposits in rocks. It should also be noted that a similar type of mineral named pyrite can have very similar physical properties as gold. Pyrite, also known as fool’s gold, also looks like gold but is of a different atomic number and is therefore a different element altogether.
Before delving into a more technical analysis of gold, there are a few gold terms that divide the mineral into different types. This is mostly with regards to the way it can be seen through the naked eye and without technical expertise.
- Gold bars: gold bars can be made into a number of different shapes, as long as they have been refined. They can be made through casting which creates gold ingots or it can be made through stamping into thinner versions called gold wafers.
- Gold coins: gold coins come in many different subtypes. Mostly, they can be divided between those that have been refined, and those that don’t have a specific weight and purity. The latter set of coins is called numismatic, and they are no longer created for circulation because it is hard to value them according to their appearance. This type of coins is usually used as collector’s items.
- Gold scrap: this is anything that is more valuable because of its material than because of its function. For example, a broken gold watch will fetch a low price if sold as a watch but would be very expensive if sold with regards to the high gold purity it might contain.
- Raw gold: unrefined gold can come in different states and can have a wide variety of purity numbers. These are the newly mined pieces of gold that have not yet been processed. Gold nuggets, deposits, and dust are all a type of raw gold.
The possible colors of gold and its alloys
One of the largest differences between natural gold and all most of the other pure metals is its color. Where the other metals are usually white or gray, gold is almost a reddish metallic yellow. Gold can also be found in other different colors by the addition of other metals. This process of copper or silver addition into pure gold creates gold alloys that make gold look almost pinkish yellow known as rose gold. Manganese and iron are other metals that can be added to gold to create a different color within the metal.
White gold, a color variety of gold that is almost silvery white, can be created by adding nickel or palladium. The white gold that is considered standard usually has more than half of its percentage as pure gold. The rest will have a combination of zinc, nickel and copper, along with rhodium which can make it shinier.
Electrum is also a version of gold. This type of gold has a green hue due to the addition of silver, creating a silver-gold alloy. This alloy usually has up to three-fourths gold, but different ratios can create greener or less green versions.
Other metallic additions can create even rarer gold colors. For example, indium will be able to create blue gold and a little bit of cobalt can give you black gold.
Carat: The percentage of gold
As opposed to popular belief, the term carat is actually not used as a way to measure the weight of gold. This is because a piece of gold may be made heavier or lighter through the amount of metal added to it. So instead of measuring the purity and value of gold through its size and weight, a more objective way of measuring it was created. This type of measurement was given the “carat” unit, and can now be used to easily choose jewelry according to its purity or percentage in an article.
- A 9-carat gold piece is harder than other pieces that have higher carat numbers. Because of this, the 9 carat articles are best used for jewelry since it can properly keep stone inlays.
- A 14-carat gold piece of jewelry can also be a good choice for jewelry, and along with the 9 carat type, it is one of the less expensive options. It is mostly yellow so it is distinctly gold.
- An 18-carat gold article has three fourths purity of gold and is usually used to make different color alloys. These alloys are a bit more radiant and a lot warmer, but it is a bit more expensive than the previous types mentioned.
- A 22-carat gold piece is far too soft for most jewelry. If you choose this for your accessories, you will not be able to create stone inlaid articles because it will not be strong enough to support gems. Usually, this type of gold is only used for wedding bands since they do not necessarily need to have high strength and durability to look good and presentable.
- The highest purity that you can ever find is 24 carat gold. This is 99.9% gold and very yellow. Therefore, this type of gold ends up as having the highest expense and the brightest color. The problem with this is that it is far too malleable for creating detailed articles, so it is rarely used in making fine details for ornaments and accessories. Although this is the most expensive of all carats, 24-carat gold is definitely not the preferred choice for making most jewelry.
When making everyday jewelry with inlaid stones, those of the much lower carat ratings are usually utilized. Anything higher than 18-carat gold is usually only used for simpler but more expensive designs and pieces due to the softness of the gold.
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