Gold in Jewelry - Gold 101

Many believe that gold was the first metal used by humans for different types of ornamentation and rituals. It was most likely the first metal that prehistoric man worked with. In fact, gold has been used to make jewelry since the Stone Age. Gold decorative objects have been found in Bulgaria that date back to 4,000 B.C.

Gold has long been popular in jewelry, a tradition that continues today. The Egyptians used gold to create many of their jewelry pieces and other decorations. Striking examples of their craftsmanship have been found in the Pharaohs’ tombs, including Tutankhamen’s tomb. The Ancient Greeks and Romans continued the tradition of using gold in many of their jewelry designs. Early South American cultures, such as the Incas, also utilized gold in many of their special decorations, including jewelry. When the Spanish first landed in Peru in the 16th century, they found that the Incas had one of the largest collections of gold known to man at that time.

During modern times, India has led the way as the largest consumer market for gold. Much of the gold created and sold in South Asia is 22k, a higher quality than that found in the West, where gold is often 14k. Indians don’t just use gold in their jewelry however. Today they also use over 20 percent of the world’s decorative gold in the thread used to adorn the native garb of their women, the sari.
Pure gold, or 24 carat gold, is very soft. As a result, pure gold is rarely used in jewelry. Instead, gold is combined with other base metals to make it stronger. This is an alloy. By combining gold with metals such as copper, silver, or palladium, gold becomes harder. The alloys also have different colors, melting points, and ductility than pure gold. The resulting gold is referred to as 22k, 18k, 14k, or 10k gold, depending on the amount of other base metal that it contains. Copper is the most common addition to pure gold. It lends the gold a slightly redder hue. 

Next: Gold in Industry

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Back to the Gold 101

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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