Aïda Yuen Wong, Professor of Art History at Brandeis University; Founder and Head of Design of Callimode, an Asian American contemporary jewelry brand specializing in luxury designs to express antiracism in Asian calligraphy. Ethical & Sustainable Jewelry with Recycled Gold and Non-Conflict Diamonds.
September 22, 2022
The K Number Reflects the Gold Content
Pure gold is labeled 24K. A lower number indicates lesser quantity of pure old. Besides 24K and 18K, karatages such as 10K, 14K or 22K are fairly common too. To get 18K gold, 18 out of 24 parts of pure gold is extracted and combined with 6 parts of other metals such as copper, zinc, silver and platinum. In percentage terms, 18K is equivalent to 75% of the alloy. Hence 18K gold is also labeled "750 gold." 22K gold has 91.66% of pure gold, 14K 58.33%, and so forth. To quality as fine jewelry, the gold content has to be relatively high, at least 14K.
Advantages of Solid 18K gold
Some people prefer 24K pure gold, such as for bridal or heirloom pieces. However pure gold is too soft and can be easily scratched. Mixing pure old with other metals helps to strength the material, increasing its wearability. 18K is still of very high value but less vulnerable to scratching and denting than 22K or 24K gold.
Another advantage to 18K gold is that while some people may develop allergic reaction to gold of lower karatages, 18K seldom causes the skin to react. Many wedding bands are made with 18K gold. Yellow 18K gold is considered even more hypoallergenic than white 18K gold.
One can wear 18K on a regular basis, but not for rough activities such as sports and gardening, which could risk scratching the surface. When not worn, 18K gold as fine jewelry should be placed in a box with soft lining. One should also avoid going swimming, bathing, and washing dishing gloveless with gold jewelry. Bleach, chemicals, detergents can be harmful to the material.
Furthermore,18K gold retains its color, unless it is simply a coating. The term 18K gold vermeil means the piece is not solid gold, but is coated with 18K gold (2.5 microns) around silver. Over time (as little as 2 years), the coating of vermeil may start to rub off and the piece will tarnished. For durability, solid gold is preferred.
White, Yellow or Rose Gold?
Yellow gold is alloyed with silver and copper, whereas white gold with a variety of white metals. Rose gold is another option, which is the product of mixing gold with pure copper or more copper, which gives it that pink or orange tint.
It is a matter of taste which color gold to choose. Most people have a mixture of yellow and white gold items in their jewelry wardrobe. Bright, yellow gold looks fantastic on people with tan and olive color skin. White gold is elegant and cool. Rose gold is gaining popularity too; it is a little different and evokes femininity and romance.
Personally, I think about my whole outfit. I tend to pick yellow gold when I am wearing reds and browns, and white gold when wearing grays. There are emotional considerations too. Yellow gold really lifts my spirits up and white gold is really cool. Rose gold makes me feel feminine and romantic.