What is gold?

Pure gold is a dense metal that is shiny with a yellowish color and is very soft and malleable. Gold is an element known as Au and was one of the first known metals. For use in jewelry, it must be combined (alloyed) with another metal to strengthen it.

What is rose gold, red gold, and pink gold?

Rose Gold vs. Yellow Gold

Comparison of rose gold and yellow gold rings

Rose gold and yellow gold rings


Rose gold, red gold, and pink gold are made from a gold and copper alloy. Since copper has a bold pinkish-orange color, adding this alloy to gold gives the gold a beautiful pinkish gold color. 18K rose gold, 18K red gold, and 18K pink gold contain 75% gold. 14K rose gold, 14K red gold, and 14K pink gold contain 58% gold. The remaining percentage is made up of copper or copper and silver. The varying percentage of copper used determines the color of the gold. The more copper that is used, the stronger the rose color. Pink gold uses the least amount of copper, followed by rose gold, and red gold has the highest copper content.

There is no such thing as pure rose gold, since rose gold is an alloy of gold and copper. Below are examples of the common alloys for 18K rose gold, 18K red gold, and 18K pink gold.

18K Red Gold18K Rose Gold18K Pink Gold
75% gold75% gold75% gold
25% copper22.5% copper20% copper
 2.75% silver5% silver

What is white gold?

White gold is an alloy of yellow gold and at least one white metal, usually nickel or palladium. 18K white gold is 75% gold, and 14K white gold is 58.3% gold, so jewelry made from these metals have a slight yellow color. To enhance the whiteness, almost all white gold is plated with rhodium – a shiny, white metal which is extremely hard. Depending on the amount of wear to a piece of jewelry, over time the rhodium plating may wear off, revealing the original metal color. Jewelry can be re-plated with rhodium to restore the whiteness, if needed. Below are sample alloy compositions of white gold:

18K white gold
  • 75% gold
  • 10% palladium
  • 10% nickel
  • 5% zinc
14K white gold
  • 59% gold
  • 25.5% copper
  • 12.3% nickel
  • 3.2% zinc

What is a karat of gold?

Pure gold is 24 karats so 1 karat of gold is 1/24 gold = 4.16% gold.

What is 24K gold?

24K gold is 100% gold and is too soft for jewelry. It must be alloyed, or combined, with other metals to strengthen it.

What is 22K gold?

22K gold is 91.7% gold, 5% silver, 2% copper, and 1.3% zinc. It is very soft and not recommended for jewelry.

What is 18K gold?

18K gold is 75.0% gold and is recommended for fine jewelry.

What is 14K gold?

14K gold is 58.3% gold and is recommended for jewelry. 14K gold is the most popular form of gold because it wears well, is resistant to scratches, and is more durable than the higher karat values.

What is 12K gold?

12K gold is 50.0% gold and is not acceptable for jewelry, although it can still be legally sold as gold.

What is 10K gold?

10K gold is 41.7% gold. It is the legal karat limit considered as real gold in the United States.

What is rhodium?

Rhodium is an element, Rh, that is silvery-white and hard. It is one of the rarest and most valuable precious metals. It is resistant to corrosion and does not oxidize. For this reason, white gold is often plated with a thin layer of rhodium to give it a shiny silvery-white color. Sterling silver can be plated with rhodium for tarnish resistance. Because the layer of rhodium applied to white gold and silver is so thin, it may need to be re-applied to restore the shiny silver color.

Rhodium, which is one of rarest elements in the Earth’s crust, is found in platinum ores in South Africa and North America. Rhodium is rarely used in its pure form in jewelry because it has a high melting point and poor malleability, and because it is so expensive – about 8 times the price of gold.

What are the acceptable stamps for gold?

All gold is required to be stamped to indicate the karat value of the piece. It is acceptable for the karat to be indicated by a capital K or ct. Below are examples of acceptable stamps for gold:

  • 14K or 14ct
  • 18K or 18ct

What is vermeil?

Vermeil is .925 sterling silver layered with a thin coating of gold. While standard plating is about 2 millionths of an inch of gold, a vermeil coating is 50 times that thickness, or 100 millionths of an inch over sterling silver. Vermeil is gold jewelry with the exact same shine and richness of real 14 karat gold that won’t wear down easily. To care for your gold vermeil jewelry, simply polish with a cloth, and never machine polish or use any chemicals such as silver or gold cleaner.

What does gold-plated mean?

During the process of gold plating, a thin layer of gold is applied to a less expensive piece of metal, typically copper or silver. Industry standards dictate that .15 to .25 mils of gold be applied during the plating process. Gold plating tends to wear down and chip off of its base metal and is not considered as durable as items that are pure gold or gold-filled.

What does gold-filled mean?

Gold-filled items are those which have had a layer of 10k (or higher) gold bonded mechanically to a base metal. The layer of gold must make up a minimum of 1/20th of the total weight of the piece. Such items are marked as being “gold-filled,” along with the karat fineness of the gold used for filling, such as 10k, 14K, etc.

What is 24K gold electroplated over brass?

This is a brass item, such as a watch, a clock, or a piece of jewelry, which has had a layer of 24k gold mechanically plated over its surface. The user receives a product that looks as if it is gold, but at a much lower cost, because the majority of the metal is brass. The finish on the product may not last as long as a solid gold item, but the decrease in cost makes this process attractive to many people.

What is an alloy?

An alloy is a metal made by combining two or more metals to give it greater strength. Pure gold, like 24K gold, is too soft to be used in jewelry, so it must be combined with another metal to give it strength. The most common metals alloyed with gold are silver, copper, and zinc to strengthen the gold. Copper turns the alloy pink and creates rose gold. Silver or palladium added to gold creates white gold. The percent of gold used in the alloy determines the karat value.

Is it karat or carat?

A karat designates how much pure gold is in a piece of jewelry. The higher the karat number, the higher percentage of gold is in the jewelry. Gold is alloyed, or combined, with other metals to make is stronger for use in jewelry. The highest karat value is 24, so 24K is 100% pure gold.

A carat is a weight of measurement used for diamonds.

How to care for gold-plated items?

Opting for a gold-plated item over solid or gold-filled item does not mean that it is destined to wear down immediately. With proper care, gold-plating can last a long time and can be a cost-effective alternative to solid or gold-filled products. It is important to wash gold-plated items with nothing stronger than warm soapy water. Chemicals in cleaning products and jewelry cleansers can break down gold plating. Do not expose gold-plated items to lotion, cosmetics, perfume, or prolonged moisture, and do not buff, as these contribute to the breakdown of the plating and tarnishing of the item.

Pictures of rose gold/red gold/pink gold jewelry