My popular range of Sterling silver geometric shape jewellery have been given an upgrade. They are now available in 9ct Gold, hooray! But have you ever wondered, just exactly what is 9ct Gold? I thought this was the perfect time to explain a few things about Gold, how to avoid some common pitfalls and make sure you choose the right metal for your next jewellery piece.
The basics - what is 9ct gold? and what about 14ct, 18ct and 24ct?
Unlike silver, which is really only widely available as 925 sterling silver (and 999 pure fine silver). Gold comes in various grades or ‘carats’.In the UK the most common grades of gold found in jewellery are 9 carat, 14 carat, 18 carat and 22 carat. In simple terms these ‘carats’ (abbreviated to 'ct') represent the percentage of gold in the metal.
Pure gold is classed as 24ct gold and it is 99.9% gold, gold is actually an incredibly soft metal so 24ct gold is rarely used for jewellery as it is just too soft and any decoration or shape would wear off over time. The ‘carat’ system for rating gold essentially measures all other grades of gold out of 24, each carat is 1/24th of pure gold
- 22ct gold is just over 90% gold and is still quite soft so is generally only used for plain gold jewellery.
- 18ct gold is ¾ pure gold with the rest made up of stronger metals to make it more durable. 18ct gold is celebrated for having a very warm and brighter look compared to 9ct and 14ct gold, but this comes at a price (more on this later!)
- Then you have 9ct gold jewellery and 14ct gold, both of which have a lighter yellow hue but are strong and durable as they have a higher percentage of other metals.
Is 9ct Gold jewellery expensive?
To point out the obvious - gold is very expensive! As you increase the carats the price increases significantly, so is 9ct gold valuable? Yes, very! Even though it has the lowest gold content, it is still very expensive!
Gold prices fluctuate all of the time, but to give you some perspective based on the prices at time of writing: 9ct gold is around 20 times the price of silver, 14ct gold is almost twice the price of 9ct , and 18ct gold is twice the price of that. To put that in perspective – a pendant with £15 of silver in it would contain £300 of 9ct gold or £600 of 18ct gold!
Rose gold and white gold
So the next question that comes to mind is 'what is rose gold and white gold'? Its all about the alloys that are mixed with the pure gold. Rose gold and white gold do not occur naturally, they are created by combining pure yellow gold with specific alloy metals, so you could never have 24ct white gold, or 24ct rose gold.
Rose gold is created simply by using copper as the alloy combined with pure gold, this creates the reddish hue that is characteristic of rose gold
How to look after 9ct Gold
Pure gold is one of the least reactive metals, pure gold does not tarnish or rust, however as most gold jewellery is not pure 24ct gold, the combination of the other alloys in the metal can cause gold jewellery to tarnish over time, however it doesn’t tarnish as obviously as sterling silver. If this has happened you need to freshen it up using a jewellery polishing cloth, for very heavily tarnished jewellery you may need to send it back to a professional for a deep clean and polish.
I have a page devoted to looking after your silver jewellery to protect it from tarnish, the same tips apply to 9ct gold, so take a look.
A brief summary of Gold Plating
If you are looking for a more affordable piece of gold jewellery you have 3 options:
- Gold plated – Gold plated jewellery has had a very thin layer of real gold (normally 18ct or 24ct) applied on top of a base metal. It provides all of the look of gold jewellery with very little actual gold, so it is significantly more affordable. There is a big watch out for gold plated jewellery though – it is not a very durable finish, over time it will rub away, through wear and through cleaning. Therefore it is not suitable for all applications and you need to care for it well – don’t let it rub against other pieces of jewellery in your jewellery box and it is particularly unsuitable for jewellery pieced like rings that tend to see a bit more ‘wear and tear’. I only ever use gold plating for earrings, as I want my jewellery to last a lifetime and it isn't suitable for things like rings or bracelets that tend to get bashed around a little more
- Gold Vermiel – To put it simply, this is a thicker version of gold plating – quite significantly thicker, - normally at least 5 times thicker than plating. This makes it more durable – but still needs good care to ensure it lasts
- Gold filled – again it is in essence a layer of gold applied on top of a base metal, to be classed as gold filled it requires 5% of the total weight to be gold. This is more durable than Vermiel and Plated jewellery wand with good care can last for 10 to 30 years before the layer of gold will eventually wear off exposing the metal underneath.
How to understand hallmarks
Now that you know all about the types of Gold, its important to understand hallmarks and the rules around selling Gold jewellery. The good news is that in the UK the sale of precious metals is well regulated to ensure that you can have confidence that you get what you are paying for. I plan to write a full blog on hallmarking very soon as there is a lot to talk about, but here is a brief summary.
Any jewellery seller in the UK is required by law to state the metal in a product title and product description, clearly specifying if it is plated. Unfortunately not everyone adheres to the rules as strictly as they should, this can make it confusing when you see 18ct gold jewellery that seems much cheaper – as a rule of thumb:
If it seems much cheaper then elsewhere it is unlikely to be the solid gold you were expecting, don’t be afraid to ask questions to make sure you know what you are buying.
You can always check that the item you have received matches your expectation by checking the hall mark – every gold item that weighs over 1 gram has to have a hallmark, it will definitely tell you the metal fineness, but it can also tell you who made it and when it was made. I’m just going to tell you about the hallmarks that indicate the gold fineness for now. So grab a magnifying glass and piece of gold jewellery and take a look for the following:
You are looking for the shape and the number indicated on the hallmark, here is a handy guide: