Gold, one of the world's most precious metals, dates back to the dawn of mankind. All great civilizations built up treasuries of the lustrous metal, reserving golden objects for their most important rituals. However, the most alluring use of the sun-colored metal has always been in jewelry.
The Egyptians, largest producers of gold in the ancient world, equated gold with the sun, the giver of life, and reserved its use for pharaohs only.
The ancient Etruscans created meticulously handwrought objects using fine granules and threads of gold, a technique still practiced today.
To this day, Chinese and Indian brides wear jewelry of no less than 24-karat gold on their wedding day to ensure a lifetime of good luck and happiness.
And, a gift of gold jewelry says love and permanence as eloquently today as in all the ages past.
The Uniqueness of Gold
Of all the world's precious metals, only gold combines the four basic characteristics that make it a universally treasured possession.
Beauty - Gold's natural color can be further enhanced by alloying it with small amounts of other metals, yielding a spectrum of exquisite, subtle shades. Metalsmiths are able to create yellow, rose, green and white golds by adjusting the alloys. More copper results in a soft rose color; additional silver creates green gold; and palladium produces white. A popular trend is to combine two or more colors of gold in a single piece of jewelry.
Purity - It is estimated that only slightly more than 100,000 tons of gold have been taken from the earth during all of recorded history. And although gold can be found in rivers, seas and land in many parts of the earth, it is not easily extracted. Opening a mine is a time-consuming and costly operation, and several tons of ore are required in order to produce just one ounce of the precious metal.
Durability - Look no further than the nearest museum where gold jewelry, coins and artifacts from ancient civilizations attest to the metal's enduring beauty and permanence.
Workability - Jewelers throughout the ages have preferred gold to all other metals for its beauty and ease of workmanship. Gold can be melted, or shaped, to create any design. It can be alloyed with a number of other metals to increase its strength and produce a variety of colors and can be re-melted and used again to create new designs.
How To Buy Karat Gold Jewelry
Look for the quality mark. Pure gold, or 24-karat, is generally considered too soft for use in jewelry, so it is alloyed with other metals to increase its strength.
Eighteen-karat gold is 18/24ths, or three-quarters pure gold. Jewelry of this fineness is marked "18k" or "750," the European designation meaning 75 percent gold.
In the United States, 14-karat gold is used most commonly for jewelry. Fourteen-karat gold is 14/24ths, or slightly more than one-half pure gold. Jewelry of this fineness is marked "14k" or "585," the European designation meaning 58.5 percent gold.
Nothing less than 10-karat gold can be legally marked or sold as gold jewelry in the United States. These pieces are marked "10k" or "417," the European designation meaning 41.7 percent gold.
Look for trademarks accompanying the quality mark. When a piece of jewelry is stamped with a quality mark, law requires that it be stamped with a hallmark or trademark as well. Sometimes the jewelry is also marked with its country of origin. These designations are designed to assure you that you are buying genuine gold jewelry of the karatage marked.
Gold comes in a variety of colors. Because gold is alloyed with other metals to increase its strength, it can also be made in a variety of colors. For example, yellow gold is created by alloying the metal with copper and silver; using copper only creates pink gold; white gold contains platinum or palladium, zinc and copper; green gold contains silver, copper and zinc.
Pricing is based on four factors: karatage, gram weight, design and craftsmanship. The karatage and gram weight tell you how much gold is in a piece, but other crucial factors determining price are the piece's construction and design. A price based solely on gram weight does not reflect the work that has gone into the piece. It's important to remember that each piece of gold jewelry is unique and, if cared for properly, can last a lifetime.
Look for quality construction. When buying a piece of gold jewelry, be sure to inspect it carefully. Pay special attention to fasteners or clasps, making sure catches work easily but are secure. Likewise, the backs of pins and earring posts should be strong and firmly attached to the piece with no soldering marks visible. With gold chain, lay it flat and make sure the links don't kink or bend.
Your Gold Jewelry Wardrobe
Build a gold jewelry wardrobe in the same way you build a clothing wardrobe. Always begin with the best-quality basics you can afford and add pieces. Your basics are a gold chain, necklace, classic hoop or button earrings, and a link bracelet. Additions can include a slide-on pendant, a pair of drop earrings where the bottoms can be detached (thus creating two different looks) followed by a gold ring or a pin. Begin with pieces that have classic shapes and look appropriate with a variety of different outfits then add pieces that offer versatility of wear or those with a fashion touch, such as matte and polished surface treatments or two or three tones of gold.
Caring for Your Gold Jewelry
Remember that gold is lasting and durable but can get scratched or dented if treated roughly.
Gold's worst enemy is chlorine. Repeated exposure can weaken gold's structure, eventually leading to breakage. So keep your jewelry away from chlorinated cleaning products and out of swimming pools and jacuzzis.
Protect your gold jewelry by storing it safely or keeping it wrapped in a soft cloth when not being worn.
Clean your gold jewelry with a cleaning solution of sudsy lukewarm water, or bring it to your local jeweler and have it steam-cleaned.
Dry and polish jewelry with a chamois or soft cloth after cleaning and rinsing.
Keep gold jewelry free from dust, moisture, perspiration and makeup.
Always inspect your gold jewelry for weakness or damage and bring it to a professional jeweler for immediate repair. Your jeweler will be able to restore it for you.
Where to Buy Karat Gold Jewelry
Now that you are ready to buy, the question that comes to mind is where? You can buy gold jewelry in many types of stores and "incredible discounts" are not hard to find.
To make sure you get jewelry that you will be happy with now and for years to come follow a simple rule: buy from a professional, someone you can trust. Choose a retailer who has been serving the community for a number of years and has an established reputation.
Ask if the jeweler is a member of the Jewelers of America, the national association for retail jewelers. Or look for the "J" mark on the door. JA jewelers are knowledgeable and they have a wide selection of fine jewelry that will make putting your gold jewelry wardrobe together easy and fun. They will not only help you with this purchase but they will be there in the future to answer all your questions and help you with your purchases, repairs, and custom design.
The Legend of South Dakota Gold
Once upon a time, as the legend goes, a young Frenchman named Henri LeBeau worked for his father as a goldsmith and jeweler in a small village in his native France. Henri and his father created many beautiful pieces of silver and gold. Their workmanship was known from villages far and wide.
Henri was a kind and gentle lad, who loved all things of nature and beauty. He especially loved to walk through his parent's vineyards and enjoyed the delicate aroma and beautiful colors of the grapes and flowers.
As Henri grew older, he felt a yearning to see the rest of the world. With the blessing of his parents, Henri left on a journey to the new land that he had heard so much about. Henri traveled for months and months and finally arrived in America, where he worked for a short time as a jeweler and goldsmith.
It wasn't long before Henri became fascinated with the tales of fortunes being made in California. He joined a wagon train and headed for the gold rush of California and started out on a trip that proved fatal for most of the party. Henri wandered aimlessly for months until he came upon the Black Hills region of South Dakota. He decided to stay in the Black Hills and try to make his fortune.
Henri spent months and months searching the Black Hills for his fortune in gold, but failed after a long search. Henri, tired and discouraged, near death, sat down to rest by a large tree. He fell fast asleep and dreamed of the beautiful vineyards of his homeland. When Henri awoke, he was inspired by his dream and vowed to become a success.
With his new vigor he created various hues of gold into the grapes, leaves and tendrils of this dream. He began to sell the handcrafted jewelry to other miners and prospectors, and became very successful. The beautiful look that Henri created became a part of the Black Hills legend and thus, Black Hills Gold Jewelry was born.
Because of its beauty and value, platinum jewelry has always been given as a special expression of love for engagements, weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays. One of the rarest precious metals, platinum is found in only a few locations around the world.
Platinum has a rich and noble history. It was first used by the ancient Egyptians about three thousand years ago. Eight hundred years later, the Incas worked with platinum. The first platinum jewelry in Europe appeared around the year 1780, at the court of Louis XVI of France.
Many of the world's most famous diamonds, including the Hope Diamond, are set in platinum. Carl Fabergé, the famed 19th-century Russian jeweler, prized working in platinum, as did Louis Cartier of Paris and many other great jewelers throughout history.
Platinum is among the finest, purest and rarest precious metals. It has an understated elegance that appeals to both men and women.
One of the strongest and most enduring of metals, it is also one of the heaviest. A piece of jewelry containing 90 percent pure platinum weighs 60 percent more than a 14-karat gold piece of similar size. Platinum is ideal for jewelry that's worn everyday because it shows little wear. It's also hypoallergenic and resists tarnish.
Platinum jewelry is pure. In the United States platinum jewelry generally contains anywhere from 85 to 95 percent pure platinum. By comparison, 18-karat gold is 75 percent pure gold and 14-karat gold is only 58 percent pure gold.
If a piece of platinum jewelry is marked "Platinum" then it contains at least 95 percent pure platinum. Jewelry with 85 to 95 percent pure platinum is marked "950 Plat." or "950 Pt.," "850 Plat." or "850 Pt.," etc. Both the two- and four-letter abbreviation for platinum is used.
Jewelry containing at least 50 percent pure platinum and at least 95 percent platinum group metals (platinum, palladium, iridium, osmium, rhodium and ruthenium) is marked with the platinum content followed by the content of the other metal. For example: "600 Plat. 350 Irid." or "600 Pt. 350 Ir."
Jewelry containing less than 50 percent pure platinum content cannot be marked with the word "platinum" or any abbreviation thereof.
A professional jeweler can explain these platinum markings to you and assist you in selecting platinum jewelry that will bring pleasure to you and the recipient for years to come.
Platinum is rare. To produce a single ounce of finished platinum, a total of 10 tons of ore must be mined. In comparison, only three tons of ore are required to produce one ounce of gold. This rarity gives platinum its cachet.
Platinum is lustrous. Platinum's rich, white luster complements diamonds and other precious gems while its neutral color enhances a stone's brilliance and depth.
Platinum is fashionable. Platinum jewelry appeals to many people today because of its subtle beauty and understated elegance. Many platinum jewelry designs are accented with 18-karat gold, creating a sophisticated, versatile and fashionable look.
Whether you choose a ring, pin, bracelet, earrings, necklace or bridal jewelry, you can find new and sophisticated platinum designs. Some are all platinum for a sophisticated look, but many feature 18-karat gold accents.
As platinum's pure white luster, strength and durability are recognized and admired, bridal couples worldwide are rediscovering platinum as the metal of choice for engagement, wedding and anniversary jewelry.
A diamond and its setting should last forever. Because platinum is superior to other metals in strength and durability, it offers a diamond the greatest protection. The breathtaking radiance of a diamond fused with the timeless elegance of platinum creates a rare and enduring symbol of love.
Common Questions about Platinum Jewelry
Why is platinum's purity important to me?
Platinum, one of the world's strongest metals, is hypoallergenic, tarnish-resistant, and extremely durable.
Is platinum the same as white gold?
No, it is quite different. During World War II, the U.S. government prohibited platinum use in non-military applications, including jewelry. Because of strong consumer preference for platinum's pure white luster, white gold was substituted in platinum's absence. To create white gold, yellow gold is alloyed with other metals to achieve a white look. However, platinum is white to begin with and maintains its white luster permanently. Its purity, strength, rarity, durability and naturally rich, white color make it the best choice.
How should I care and clean my platinum jewelry?
Platinum jewelry should be cleaned the same way you clean other fine jewelry. Use a good prepackaged jewelry cleaner available at your local jeweler or have it professionally cleaned by your local jeweler. As with all precious jewelry, handle with care, not allowing pieces to touch or scratch each other.
Will platinum scratch?
Signs of wear, including scratches, will inevitably appear in all precious metals, even in platinum. However, due to platinum's durability and strength there is usually little metal loss when the piece is scratched. If your platinum jewelry does develop visible scratches, you should have the piece repolished by a professional jeweler.
Is platinum fashionable?
Will it coordinate with my gold jewelry? Platinum's white color beautifully contrasts with yellow gold and adds versatility to your existing wardrobe.
Where to Buy Platinum Jewelry?
Platinum jewelry can be worn over a lifetime and passed on to future generations, so where you buy it is important. But how do you know where to buy?
The answer is simple: buy from a professional jeweler, someone you can trust. Choose a retailer who has been serving the community for a number of years and has an established reputation.
Ask if the jeweler is a member of Jewelers of America, the national association for retail jewelers. Or look for the "J" mark on the door. JA jewelers are knowledgeable and provide a wide selection of fine jewelry that will make selecting your platinum piece a pleasure. Your JA jeweler will not only help you with this purchase, but can help you with all your future jewelry needs. Your professional jeweler will not only help you with your purchases, but with repairs, custom design or simply answer all you questions about jewelry.