Color of Gold - Gold 101

Gold is one of only three metals that have any natural color other than gray or white. Caesium and cooper are the other two. The gray color of most metals, such as silver or lead, is a result of their electron sea. This grouping of particles can absorb and re-emit photons, the basic units of light. However, the electrons in gold react differently than the ones found in other metals. The wave-like pattern the gold electrons create affect how photons are re-emitted.

We most commonly associate the color of gold with a metallic shine that alludes to the reflective brightness of the metal. While gold’s natural color is a metallic yellow, it can be alloyed with other metals to create different colors as well. A gold alloy, however, cannot be referred to as pure gold. One example of an alloy is a combination of gold and nickel or palladium, which results in white gold. Just like yellow gold, white gold’s purity is measured in carats. Depending on which metal gold is combined with the resulting white gold can be stronger, as with nickel, or more pliable, as with palladium.

When copper is added to gold, the resulting alloy is called rose or pink gold. The amount of copper combined with gold changes the metal’s color so that it can range from a light pink to more of a red. Gold takes on a greenish yellow tint when combined with silver. Combining gold and aluminum creates purple gold. A purple gold alloy is very brittle however and prone to shatter with any strong blow. For a bluer hue, gold is combined with indium. It is even possible to create grey or black gold.  Grey gold is an alloy of gold, silver, manganese, and copper. Black gold is created through several methods—electroplating, patination, or a chemical vapor deposition process.

In addition to the precious metal, gold is a color as well. The first recorded use of golden in English occurred in 1300 referring to the metal. The first reference to gold as a color in English, and not a metal, happened in 1423. This time gold was used to describe blonde hair.

Next: Gold as Jewelry

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Gold was first discovered thousands of years ago in its natural state, in streams, which lead to mining all over the world. Its brilliance, natural beauty, great malleability and resistance to tarnish made it enjoyable to work with. Gold gave rise to the concept of money itself. Today gold is used for jewelry fabrication, industrial application, and medical uses, by governments and central banks and by private investors.

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