What Are The Different Types Of Gold? - Jack Weir & Sons Jewelry

by User on Jun 04, 2024

What Are The Different Types Of Gold? - Jack Weir & Sons Jewelry

Different Types of Gold

Gold, the precious metal that has captivated humanity for millennia, is much more complex than its simple yellow sheen might suggest. Gold has been a symbol of wealth, power, and beauty throughout human history, transcending eras as a central element in economic, cultural, and technological development. The history of gold is a journey through time that reveals a profound impact on humanity and civilization. Today we’re going to delve into the history of this magical metal and it’s various iterations. But first, let’s talk details. 

What Type of Metal is Gold?

The chemical symbol for gold is Au, originated from the Latin Aurum, meaning shining dawn. Gold, with atomic number 79, is a chemical element known for its malleability and conductivity. It is a transition metal and part of group 11 in the periodic table, sharing properties with silver and copper. Gold is a Noble metal, highly resistant to corrosion and oxidation, which is why it retains its luster over time. Additionally it is relatively inert, not reacting with most chemicals so it doesn’t tarnish and is resistant to acids. Gold is extremely malleable and durable and can be beaten into extremely thin sheets (gold leaf) and drawn into thin wires without breaking. It is also an excellent conductor of electricity and heat. These unique properties make it invaluable in various industries outside of just jewelry - everything from electronics to medicine.

The History of Gold 

The history of gold goes back nearly as far as time itself. Well, maybe not that far - but pretty far. We’ve put a timeline together for you to better understand just how significant golds impact has been over the course of history. 

5th Century BC - The earliest evidence of gold, for decorative artifacts, is found in what is now Bulgaria. Called Varna gold because of it’s provenance near Lake Varna, the gold found from this time is large in quantity and diverse in type. 

3rd Century BC -  Evidence of gold is found in other cultures such as The Sumer civilization of southern Iraq, The Mesopotamians and The Egyptians. During this time in Egypt, the first Dynasty, the relationship in value between gold and silver is first documented and states that “one part of gold is equal to two and one half parts of silver in value.”

Egyptian hieroglyphs from as early as 2600 BC describe gold as being "more plentiful than dirt."  The Egyptians regarded gold as the skin of the gods, particularly the sun god Ra. The legendary wealth of the Pharaohs, epitomized by the gold mask of Tutankhamun, underscores the metal's significance. The vast quantities of gold in Egypt fueled both the economy and the grandeur of their burial practices, believing it would ensure their immortality.

1200 - 1300 BC - The oldest known map of a gold mine was drawn in the 19th Dynasty of Ancient. Some of the largest mines were present across the Red Sea in what is now Saudi Arabia. 

1st Century BC - During the classical era, gold played a crucial role in the Mediterranean world. The Greeks and Romans mined gold extensively, using it for coinage, jewelry, and various luxury items. The Greeks believed gold was a form of pure and indestructible wealth, associated with the gods and the afterlife. The famous gold-rich region of Lydia, where King Croesus reigned, was one of the first to mint gold coins around 600 BCE.
In fact, Rome’s vast empire was funded in part by gold extracted from conquered territories. Roman engineers developed advanced mining techniques, including hydraulic mining, to extract gold from riverbeds. The gold standard established by the Romans, where the value of currency was directly linked to a specific weight of gold, influenced economic systems for centuries.

Early AD - Though the ultimate fall of the Roman Empire led to a decline in gold production in Europe, gold continued to be a symbol of power and wealth throughout the Middle Ages. The Byzantine Empire, the successor of Rome in the East, maintained a stable gold coinage system known as the solidus, which was the backbone of its economy for centuries. 
The discovery of gold in West Africa during the medieval period significantly impacted the world. The Mali Empire, particularly under Mansa Musa, became renowned for its immense gold wealth. Mansa Musa’s pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324, carrying vast amounts of gold, demonstrated the region's abundance and led to increased trade with the Islamic world and Europe.

The Renaissance era - The Renaissance era saw a revival in art, culture, and exploration, fueled in part by the quest for gold. The European exploration of the New World in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, driven by the search for gold and other riches, led to significant global changes. The Spanish conquest of the Americas resulted in vast amounts of gold being shipped to Europe, transforming the continent’s economies and leading to an era of unprecedented wealth and growth.

The California Gold Rush - In the modern era, gold continued to shape economies and societies. The California Gold Rush and subsequent gold rushes in Australia, South Africa, and Canada spurred mass migrations and economic booms. These events not only provided material wealth but also helped shape the modern world through the development of infrastructure, cities, and industries.

Late 19th Century - Gold also played a central role in the establishment of the gold standard in the 19th and early 20th centuries, where national currencies were backed by gold reserves. This system provided economic stability but was eventually abandoned during the 20th century due to its limitations during economic crises.

Different Types of Gold

Gold comes in various forms and compositions, each suited for different purposes.  But let's talk about what we are passionate about - gold for use in jewelry.


What is Yellow Gold? 

Yellow gold is the most classic form of gold, often associated with traditional jewelry and timeless elegance. Yellow gold is an alloy, meaning it is a mixture of gold with other metals like copper and zinc. The proportion of gold to other metals affects its color and properties. The pure yellow hue comes from the natural color of gold. The exact shade can vary based on the alloy composition. Pure gold (24 karats) is soft and can be easily scratched, so it is often alloyed with other metals to improve its hardness. Yellow gold requires regular cleaning to maintain its shine. It can be polished to remove scratches and restore its luster.

Shop Yellow Gold Jewelry at Jack Weir & Sons

What is White Gold?

White gold is a trendy alternative to yellow gold, loved for its sleek and modern look. It's an alloy made by mixing gold with white metals like nickel, palladium, or silver, giving it that distinct silvery-white color. White gold is harder than yellow gold, so it's more resistant to scratches and dents, although its durability varies depending on the metals used in the mix.

The chic and contemporary vibe of white gold makes it a favorite for modern jewelry designs.

Shop White Gold Jewelry at Jack Weir & Sons 

What is Rose Gold?

Rose gold combines gold with copper and sometimes silver to create its distinctive pink hue. Its unique color feels somehow  both vintage and modern, making it versatile for various designs and occasions. Rose gold is durable due to the copper content, and it complements all skin tones. Its popularity surged in recent years, seen in engagement rings, watches, and even tech accessories.

Shop Rose Gold Jewelry at Jack Weir & Sons 

Gold-Filled  & Gold Plated Jewelry

Gold-filled and gold-plated jewelry are budget-friendly alternatives to solid gold, but there are certainly some key differences. Gold-filled jewelry has a thick layer of gold bonded to a base metal like brass or copper. The bonding process uses heat and pressure, resulting in a durable and high-quality finish. Gold-filled pieces definitely have more longevity than gold-plated pieces. They’re more resistant to tarnishing and wear, so they keep their shine for years with proper care. Plus, they’re hypoallergenic, so they’re a good choice for people with sensitive skin.

On the other hand, gold-plated jewelry has a thin layer of gold electroplated onto a base metal such as brass or nickel. This gold layer is much thinner, usually only a few microns thick. While gold-plated jewelry is more affordable, it’s also less durable. Over time, the thin gold layer can wear off, exposing the base metal underneath, which can lead to tarnishing or discoloration. Gold-plated items need more frequent care and maintenance to keep them looking good. They’re also more likely to cause allergic reactions because of the base metals used.

What are Gold Karats?

Karats are a measure of the purity of gold, indicating how much gold is present in a piece of jewelry relative to other metals. 24 Karat (24K) gold is 100% pure, characterized by its bright yellow color and very soft texture, which makes it less suitable for everyday jewelry. 22 Karat (22K) gold contains 91.7% gold and is slightly more durable than 24K, but still relatively soft. 18 Karat (18K) gold, comprising 75% gold, offers a good balance of purity and durability, making it a popular choice for fine jewelry. 14 Karat (14K) gold contains 58.3% gold, making it more durable and affordable, hence suitable for everyday wear. Lastly, 10 Karat (10K) gold, with 41.7% gold content, is the least pure form of gold allowed to be sold as gold in the U.S., known for its strength and affordability. Higher karat gold is more expensive, but lower karat gold is harder and more scratch-resistant. Higher karat gold has a richer, more vibrant yellow color, while lower karat gold can appear paler due to the higher content of other metals. Regardless of the karat, gold jewelry requires regular cleaning and care. It is important to avoid exposing gold to harsh chemicals and to store it properly to prevent scratches and damage.
Understanding the different types of gold, from yellow and white gold to various karat levels, is essential for making informed choices whether you’re buying jewelry, investing, or simply appreciating this precious metal. Each type of gold offers unique characteristics and benefits, catering to different tastes, purposes, and budgets. By knowing the properties and uses of different gold types, you can select the perfect piece that suits your style and needs.
What's the difference between a karat and a carat you might ask? Well that's a great question. As we just discussed, a gold karat measures the purity of gold. Pure gold is 24 karats and lower karat gold is mixed with other metals to increase durability. A carat measures the weight of a stone, like a diamond. One carat is equivalent to 200 milligrams. Carat weight is used to describe the size of a stone, but doesn't directly correlate to the physical dimensions (length, width) because the cut and shape of the diamond also play a role.
Understanding the different types of gold, from yellow and white gold to various karat levels, is essential for making informed choices whether you’re buying jewelry, investing, or simply appreciating this precious metal. Each type of gold offers unique characteristics and benefits, catering to different tastes, purposes, and budgets. By knowing the properties and uses of different gold types, you can select the perfect piece that suits your style and needs. As always, at Jack Weir & Sons, we're here to help you find the perfect piece for yourself or a loved one, just give us a ring! 

At Jack Weir & Sons, we’ve spent the last 40 years traveling to Europe and all over the world, curating extraordinary estate jewels. JWS is where the old world meets the new world. Celebrate life, preserve history, and discover your own priceless heirloom jewel. We are extremely grateful for our clients and the ability to help people celebrate their special moments through one-of-a-kind jewelry. To share that gratitude and our strong family values, we chose to partner with Baby2Baby. So far, we've donated $125,000. A portion of every sale goes towards children living in poverty to provide them with diapers, clothing, and all the basic necessities that every child deserves. 
We offer in-person and Virtual Appointments and are happy to answer any questions about your favorite jewel. 
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