Have you ever been confused by the terms white gold, green gold, and rose gold? Pure gold is golden yellow like the sun, so how do other colors fit in? Are they imitations? No, they aren't imitations at all! Those 'other' gold colors are made of up alloys. Alloys are new metals that are created by combining two or more different metals. Even standard yellow gold (the true gold color) is made up of alloys unless it is 24k pure gold.
Here are 8 things you should know about gold colors:
1. All Non-Pure Gold is Made Up of Alloys
Differently colored gold alloys are just as "real" as their yellow gold counterparts. Pure gold is generally too soft to be used for jewelry anyway, so other metals are nearly always added to it, no matter which color of gold is being prepped for jewelry making. Think of it kind of like a cake batter made with metals. Each recipe calls for different ingredients. Instead of flour, sugar and eggs, we're working with varying amounts of copper, nickel, alluminum and other metals.
2. Karat Content Plays a Role in Gold Alloy Creation
Chances are the ring on your finger is marked 18K, 14K, or 10K to indicate how much pure gold is present in the mix. The K stands for karat, the system used to state how much pure gold is found in an item. Here is a quick rundown of the gold karat system:
- 24K gold is pure gold.
- 18K gold contains 18 parts gold and 6 parts of another metal(s), making it 75% gold.
- 14K gold contains 14 parts gold and 10 parts of another metal(s), making it 58.3% gold.
- 12K gold contains 12 parts gold and 12 parts of another metal(s), making it 50% gold.
- 10K gold contains 10 parts gold and 14 parts another metal(s), making it 41.7% gold. 10K gold is the minimum karat designation that can still be called gold in the US.
Even 18K gold gives jewelers the opportunity to play around with color using 6 parts of random metals to create a unique and often trademarked color.
3. White Gold Could Cause Allergies
Nickel can be mixed with gold to create a white (or gray) color, but be aware that nickel can cause dermatitis in some people (nickel is a fairly common allergen).
Palladium is another metal used to create white gold alloys. Related to platinum, it is more expensive than nickel, but is less likely to cause allergic reactions than nickel. Palladium is used in a lot of vintage jewelry from the Art Deco era, so you'll find that the color is more gray than it is yellow. Since it is more grey colored, vintage jewelry doesn't need a rhodium coating like a lot of modern white gold jewelry does.
Once the rhodium coating wears off, your ring will look dull and yellow.
Read More: White Gold vs. Platinum
4. Rose & Pink Gold Alloys Are More Expensive
Copper is added to make many gold-colored alloys, but additional copper creates pink and rose tones -- the more copper, the deeper the effect.
5. Green Gold is Made With Silver
Greenish shades are created by adding silver to gold. These shades can darken over time due to the silver content tarnishing.
6. Black Hills Gold is a Combination of Gold Colors
Black Hills Gold jewelry is a good example of a colored gold alloy. Most Black Hills Gold jewelry uses 10K or 12K gold alloys in shades of yellow, pink, rose, and green.
7. Not All Gold Colors Are Feasible to Make
Making alloys isn't as simple as it might sound. Before they create a new alloy, metallurgists have to consider how the metals will react with each other. Adding too much of one metal or another can make the mixture brittle, too hard, or difficult to work with. Some ingredients could also result in a mix that's too soft.
Metallurgists fine-tune their recipes to produce combinations that are attractive, durable and can be successfully worked into pieces of jewelry.
8. Black Gold Isn't Black
Some trendy gold colors aren't made using an alloy process.
Instead, a common gold alloy mixture is plated with a colored rhodium or metal coating. This is the case with black gold colors.
Another method of turning gold black is by oxidizing them metal and thus adding a patina to the metal. There are other ways of creating a black surface on gold, but none of them are permanent. Since gold is a wear item, eventually the surface coating will wear off and another will have to be added.
We hope you learned more about how gold changes color. Which is your favorite gold color? Do you like to mix metals? Let us know on Twitter.
Edited by: Lauren Thomann