Gold has been a sought after metal since the beginning of recorded history due to its beautiful bright yellow colour and lustre. Gold is a dense, soft and shiny metal and is the most malleable pure metal known. It is able to be flattened into sheets thin enough to be see-through and is used for this purpose in the space and aeronautical industries.
Gold is one of the least chemically reactive metals meaning it does not oxides in air or water. These reasons make gold not only a beautiful product but one that is easy to work into gorgeous designs whilst keeping its lustre and colour during wear.
Throughout history gold has been used as a symbol of wealth, power and beauty. The Egyptians used gold as far back as 2600B.C and many famous artefacts are fully gilded predominantly in gold, such a Tutankhamen’s burial mask. The chemical symbol for gold ‘Au’ comes from the Latin ‘Aurum’ meaning shining dawn. Gold was also a key part of bargaining and in the structuring of the modern economies where the gold standard was a countries main value of wealth. Even today gold is seen as a secure form of investment.
As pure gold is very soft it is alloyed with other metals to give it more lasting strength and this means that other colours of metal can be added to give the gold very distinctive hues. The most common are white gold and rose gold which is given a red colour by adding copper.
Currently the largest gold producing countries are South Africa, with 50% of the worlds gold having come from there, China, the USA, Australia, Russia and Peru.
Gold comes in many different purities which contribute to the varying prices seen in gold jewellery pieces. 9ct gold is marked ‘375’ and has a purity of 37.5%, 14ct is ‘585’ purity 58.5% and 18ct ‘750’, 75%. Most UK jewellery will be 9ct or 18ct whilst 14ct is used more often than 9ct in Europe.
There is also 22ct gold marked ‘916’ with 91.6% purity, because gold is very soft at this level of purity though it is not used very often in the UK. However in many other countries in the world it is not uncommon to find jewellery made with a high level of purity. 24ct gold with 99% purity is reserved mainly for gold bullions.