Gold was likely first used in around 4000 B.C.E. to make decorative objects, items for worship, and jewelry.
Since then, gold has become more than a way to decorate the home or self, it has become a medium through which society can express itself.
Yet, despite how much we like the material, we may not actually know as much as we think we do about it. For example, could you say what your gold rings are made of? It’s not pure gold, we’ll say that much.
Let’s dive into the interesting world of gold jewelry and everything you need to know about buying a gold ring.
1. The Four Types of Gold Jewelry
Not all gold is equal. And that’s really underselling how complex it can be. A lot of cheaper jewelry is gold-plated, but that doesn’t make it bad. Solid gold is probably your best bet, but that can get expensive fast.
With gold plating, an electroplating or chemical solution is used to cover a base metal with a layer of gold. This baselayer could be made of something like copper, nickel, or aluminum. The price of the jewelry depends on the thickness of the gold-plated layer.
The biggest drawback of gold-plated jewelry is that it fades. While it is easy to have it re-plated, it is something to keep in mind.
Vermeil gold, (pronounced “ver-may”), is a type of gold-plated jewelry. It has a base metal that is either pure or sterling silver. The gold layer must be at least 2.5 microns thick, and the gold used must be at least 10k gold, according to U.S. rules.
A gold-filled piece, unlike gold vermeil, does not have a gold coating. Instead, a thick layer of gold gets bonded to a base metal core and subjected to tremendous pressure, which permanently connects the two.
The weight of the gold must be 1/20th, or 5%, of the overall weight of the metal composition for it to count as “gold-filled.” This is why some gold-filled jewelry is marked with a 1/20 gold content.
Solid gold jewelry is the greatest and most expensive of all gold jewelry varieties. However, the term “solid” is a misnomer. Because an item made entirely of gold would be too soft and costly to produce, jewelers combine gold with other metals to offer structure and durability.
The amount of gold in the alloy determines the price. The higher the gold content, the more expensive the item.
2. Color Is Important
Although pure gold is yellow, jewelry and other objects are almost always made of a combination of other metals. The color of the gold changes based on the metal alloy. This also depends on:
- What metals they use
- The amount of each metal used
- Coatings and other surface colors
Yellow gold is a mixture of silver, copper, and pure gold, and has trace amounts of zinc in it, giving it its telltale shine. Although the ratio of metals needed for different alloys changes, the basic formula is 75% gold for 18k and at least 58.3% for 14k.
White gold is pure gold that is often mixed with nickel, palladium, or silver, as well as other whitening alloys. Once made, someone then plates the piece with an element called rhodium, which is an extremely hard substance.
It’s fairly common to see a small champagne tint in your white-gold jewelry after a few years. This could show that your jewelry has to be re-plated in order to regain its natural whiteness.
A copper-alloy gives rose gold jewelry its lovely pink tint. The rosier the color, the more copper in the alloy. Rose gold has the same amount of pure gold as yellow or white gold. The ratio of other metals that make up the remaining portion of the alloy combination is what makes it unique.
3. Understanding Gold Purity
Gold is a wonderful choice for intricate designs because it is the most malleable of all precious metals. Because pure gold is too soft to be worn every day, it needs to be mixed with other metals. In the case of jewelry, it is alloyed with copper, silver, and a dash of zinc.
This hardens the finished product to where it can last for decades. Having the mixed gold also makes the other metals resistant to corrosion and rust.
4. What Karat to Go For
A gold karat is a unit of measurement used widely across jewelry making. It is measured out of 24 parts and the higher the number, the more karats the piece has. For example, 10-karat pieces contain around 42 percent gold (10 divided by 24), with the rest made up of other metals like zinc and nickel.
There is, however, another issue that is frequently overlooked: durability. Because pure gold is incredibly soft, the lower the karat, the tougher and more durable your gold ring will be. To help you work out what karat to go for in your rings, consider how often you will wear them.
Low-karat (between 10 and 14k) pieces are great for everyday wear, as they are much harder to dent and scratch, and will need to be polished less frequently.
High-karat (between 18 to 22k) pieces are a good choice for items that won’t be worn often. They will look more yellow than lower karat rings but will scratch and wear down more quickly, and their parts are easier to break.
5. Understanding Alloys
There are about 90 naturally occurring metals on our planet, and the vast majority of these are native metals, or metals that are found in their metallic form on the ground. Despite this enormous amount, most of them are less than optimal for the jobs we require of them.
An alloy is just a combination of metals (and sometimes non-metallic components) that results in a material that is better suited to our needs. We usually do this to increase the material’s ‘engineering qualities,’ such as tensile strength, ductility, shear strength, hardness, and so on.
A hallmark is a stamp that is usually found on gold. The hallmark reflects the percentage of pure gold in the piece, as well as the year of completion and place of origin. By federal law, gold jewelry must always come with a maker’s mark or registered trademark.
7. Choosing the Right Gold Ring Size
If you’re buying a ring for yourself, be sure it’s the correct size for you—not too big, not too small.
You may not know someone’s exact ring size if you’re planning to give them a gold ring. Borrowing a ring from them to use as a reference is the safest bet. If that isn’t possible, you might compare your ring to theirs or ask a friend or family member to measure their ring and give you an estimate.
If you bought the ring and it turned out to be too big or small, your jeweler can resize it for you. Choose a jeweler who can deal with any issues that may arise. To resize a ring, they must have ample experience, and you should ask how much they have before going ahead.
8. Choosing a Band
It is entirely up to you to choose a band that fits your lifestyle and interests. A matte or serrated gold band is excellent for workwear while a brilliantly polished gold band may spice up casual clothing for daywear. You may want to consider an ice gold band or even something glass blasted for more formal occasions.
You may also want to match your new ring to any existing ones. For example, you may want to match your graduation rings with a family gold diamond ring. If this is the case, consider how they will fit together.
9. Ring Settings
If you have or want a gemstone on your ring, take the time to learn how and what they made the setting from. This is especially critical in prong settings, where tiny supports hold the stones in place. Because of the softness of yellow gold, these prongs will wear out fast. You also run the risk of losing your gems if the prongs bend or break.
If you can afford it, ask for platinum prongs, as it is a much more robust material. White gold rings are also a good option because we plate them with rhodium, making them more robust and less likely to bend.
10. How to Care For Your Gold Rings
Prolonged or frequent exposure to chlorine or other chemicals can harm gold jewelry. To avoid abrasions and keep the brightness of your jewelry, remove it when gardening or cleaning.
Use a soft-bristled brush to clean gold jewelry in a solution of warm water and detergent-free soap. Then use a specialist cloth or cleaning solution to polish it. To avoid scratches, place your gold pieces in soft fabric bags or the original box when not in use.
Choosing Jewelry the Right Way
We know how hard it can be to pick the right gold rings for yourself or someone else. Everyone has a unique style, and what works for one person may not work for someone else.
Why not browse our shop and see what takes your fancy? We’ve got an assorted collection of jewelry to suit every taste, whether it’s a class ring or something more specific.