Gold is one of the most precious metals in the world. Since the earliest days of man, it has been admired, molded, shaped, and worn as a symbol of wealth and good taste. Earliest archaeological findings show highly sophisticated gold art objects and jewellery discovered by archaeologists in the Royal Tombs at Ur, in what is now Southern Iraq, date back to around 3000 BC. Similarly, goldsmiths of the Chavin civilization in Peru were making ornaments by hammering and embossing gold by 1200 BC.
The romance and lure of gold is enhanced by its historic use as a storehouse of wealth. Gold’s value is intrinsic. Its value is a measure of the true wealth and the stability of national currencies the world over. Throughout history, numerous currencies have become worthless or devalued, yet gold has remained an international currency.
This precious metal cannot be created or destroyed or altered. It forever remains one of the most liquid investments with no geographic boundaries. Gold is bought, sold, traded, and stored in most parts of the world.
Since ancient times the purity of gold has been defined by the term Carat, 24 Carat is regarded as pure gold which is 24 parts of 24 are gold. Gold purity may also be described by its fineness, which is the amount of pure gold in parts per 1000. For example, a gold ring of 22 carats containing 916 fine gold has 916 parts (91.6%) gold and 84 parts (8.4 %) of other base metals. It is important to remember the more gold content the softer the piece of jewellery.
Gold comes in a number of different carats – 8CT 9CT, 10CT, 12CT 14CT, 15CT, 18CT, 22CT, 24CT. Sometimes they may be stamped with their carat weight sometimes their purity. Gold stamping is a worldwide process and standard that helps identify the pureness of the gold. However not all items are stamped with the carat of gold which is where gold testing comes into place. This is done either by acid testing or more recently by XRF testing in which the exact chemical composition and make up of a piece can be determined.
Gold comes in many different colours which are derived by mixing gold with other metals to produce an alloy which is a mixture of two or more metals. Throughout history, most people have preferred the colour of gold jewellery to remain close to that of pure gold itself, and so most jewellery has historically been made using yellow gold alloys such as copper and silver. Other common components are nickel, zinc, and palladium to produce white alloys.
A FEW GOLD TRICKS FOR THE UNWARY
Below is some of the terminology used to describe gold jewellery that is not quite what it seems.
Gold front and back – this is often seen on lockets when the front and back or outside of the locket is gold but the inside is plated.
Gold plating – the items is made of base metal with a thin layer of gold over the top.
Silver gilt – the item is made of silver with thin layers of gold over the top.
Rolled gold – layer of gold is rolled onto the sheet of metal such as copper like Sheffield plate.
Gold filled- base metal with gold sheets soldered to each side.
Gold lined – cheaper and thinner version of gold filled used in Victorian times of mass produced jewellery.
Pinchbeck– used in Victorian times with brass and 12-15% zinc.
Leonard Joel is well qualified in identifying all of these gold compositions, and has specialist knowledge in what to look for when buying and selling gold and verify what you have. Remember that not everything stamped as gold is always gold. Consideration must also be given to heft, smell, finish and wear. We are always well informed of gold trends, markets and prices. We have many clients who buy well- made gold jewellery for investment purposes, often only paying a fraction above the base gold price, they are able to purchase something that can be worn and enjoyed and yet still holds or increases value. It is difficult to think of any other commodity that possesses such beauty and rarity yet practicality.
Jewellery Insurance Valuer for Leonard Joel
Gemmologist, Diamond Technician and Registered Jewellery Valuer with NCJV