We’ve looked at different materials for making jewellery but now let’s tackle the classic!
By gold we’re talking here about the genuine article, not gold coloured metal, but the element itself. Whilst we think about gold as being a durable material which will last hundreds of years (think Staffordshire Hoard perhaps) it is a dense but soft and ductile metal, which means that while the metal itself may last it is likely to have much fine detail worn off over time if exposed to harsh conditions. It is an excellent metal for jewellery making because of these properties though, and even more so because it does not tarnish in air or water, so will retain its lustre, and is not very chemically reactive.
Gold is generally mined from the earth, most commonly as gold nuggets, but also within rocks in veins and alluvial deposits. It an also be found as a compound with other elements but this is less common. Although it is not very reactive it does react with some elements and compounds, and the term “acid test” arises from using nitric acid to test for gold as it can dissolve base metals and silver but not gold.
Gold is of course not only used in jewellery (although nearly 50% of all gold mined is used for jewellery), it has been used in coinage and it’s understood that today around 10% of gold is used in industry and according to the World Gold Council nearly 175,100 tonnes of gold have been mined and this would fit into 21 cubic meters if it was all put together! But it is known to have been used in jewellery making for around 7000 years – unbelievable!!! It’s as popular as ever for jewellery making and 2013 saw the largest volume increase in jewellery demand for 16 years. (There are lots of interesting facts on the gold.org website if you fancy some gold trivia).
Now as you will know gold isn’t always ‘gold’. While yellow gold remains ever popular, white gold has massively captured imaginations with ever increasing in popularity, and rose gold sets off certain skin tones and gemstones beautifully.
Yellow gold is still the most popular colour, but today gold is available in a diverse palette. The process of alloying—mixing other metals with pure 24 carat gold—gives malleable gold more durability, but can also be used to change its colour. All gold essentially starts out as yellow gold, different colours are created by allowing the metal with white metals. White gold is then usually plated with rhodium to create the shine and appearance we are used to. For those not familiar with white gold (…are you out there?!) be warned that this plating WILL need renewing, the regularity of this depends upon the quality of the plating and the amount you wear the item (i.e. white gold engagement ring worn all the time will need re-plating more frequently than a rarely worn pendant.
The soft warm colour of rose gold is created with the use of copper, you can find out the technical composition of different golds in a variety places but you may want to start here. There are other colours of gold created through addition of other alloys or through coatings to the surface of the gold, these are fairly rare in the UK and require a little extra care so do look at particular instructions when purchasing anything unusual and be wary of fakes!
We’ve all heard of carats and you may be familiar with the use of this as a measure for gold and gems, in gold the purity of the metal is measured in carats rather than its weight (which is measured in troy ounces). The measure of the carat is how much pure gold is alloyed with other metals. The purest gold is 24 carat and this means that there are no other metals mixed in with the gold, lower carats (eg 18 or 9 carats) contain less gold and a combination of other elements. In the UK 9 carat is the minimum, and whilst this is the least valuable as it effectively contains the least gold, it does have some advantages as it is harder and therefore more durable, whilst this makes it slightly harder to work with in terms of jewellery making it does mean it can take a bit more rough and tumble.
What do we like…?
Well we all tend to have a favourite item of jewellery, many designers work with gold but here are a couple of our favourite items from around the web:
I love this intricate but chunky ring from Lavan Jewellery (handmade in the UK) and even better they do a massive variety of sizes.
Beautiful 9ct gold pebble necklet from Sheila Fleet, I love the tactile and texture achieved in this look. If you’re interested in jewellery influenced by nature do check out some of Sheila Fleet’s other designs, I really like the Rowan collection with subtle use of gems.
Striking Hemisphere earrings from Susi Hines, this unusual design is really eye-catching, and of course we love a bit of bling 😉