Despite being a precious and highly valuable metal, gold also has a downside. In its purest form, gold is soft, so it scratches easily. For this reason, it’s mixed with metal alloys to make it harder, hence the different karat golds.
The Karat simply represents the ratio of gold to other metal alloys. An 18k gold, for example, has more gold content.
So, it’s reasonable to be a wonder if it’s prone to scratches. To find the answer, we will discuss the contents of 18k gold and the making process. We will also offer you tips on how to maintain 18k gold.
The Process of Making 18k Gold
18k gold is made from 24k gold which is considered the purest form of gold. To get pure gold, it has to be taken through complex processes of purification and refining. After the processes, 18 parts are taken from the 24 karats of pure gold.
The 18 parts of golden are then melted. In its molten state, the gold is infused with 6 parts of varying metal alloys. In percentage terms that gold makes 75% of the gold alloy while 25% is made of the other metals.
The common metals used are palladium, copper, zinc, silver, platinum. Depending on the types of metals used, the resulting gold alloy will end up having different colors. The common 18k gold colors are white, yellow, and rose gold.
Also, based on the metals mixed with the gold, the characteristics of 18k gold may differ. For example, white 18k gold is stronger than yellow 18k gold. On the other hand, yellow 18k gold is considered more hypoallergenic than white 18k gold.
The choice and percentage of metals used in the gold alloy will depend on the results you want in terms of color, toughness, and reactivity. Regardless of the combination, you choose the ratio used should be 18:6 of gold to other metal alloys.
What is the 18k Gold Made of?
As mentioned, 18k gold is made of 18 parts (75%) of pure gold and 6 parts (25%) of other metal mixtures. It varies in color and toughness, as well as, skin reactivity.
All of this depends on what the gold alloy is made of. That is what other metals have been mixed with pure gold. The metals used are mostly determined by the kind of color you would like to have.
White 18k gold, for example, is made of 75% of pure gold, mixed with 25% of white metals like silver, palladium, or platinum. Sometimes white gold could contain nickel and small traces of zinc and copper. For yellow 18k gold, it’s made of pure gold mixed with silver and copper.
Some alloys, however, may use zinc and copper. The 18k rose gold, on the other hand, is made up of, pure gold mixed with pure copper or extra copper, around 22%. Small traces of silver may also sometimes be present in some 18k rose golds.
Does 18k Gold Scratch Easily?
18k gold is great for watches, engagement rings, necklaces, and other pieces of jewelry. Given its high gold content, it has a more intense color and appealing luster.
On the other, hand it is also quite costly compared to low karat gold. So, when thinking about buying an 18k piece of jewelry, of course you’d consider how easily it scratches. This especially because it contains more gold than any other metal mixed with it.
As you already know, pure gold is soft therefore, scratches easily. By principle then, the higher the content of pure gold in a gold alloy, the more prone it is to scratching.
Considering, 18k gold has significantly more gold than other metal alloys, it stands to reason that it does scratch easily. Aside from, scratching easily, 18k gold also dents easily.
For that reason, before buying 18k jewelry you have to consider the type of condition it will be exposed to. This is because scratched-up gold loses its appeal and may start to look old or like a tarnished metal because of all the scratches and dents.
How Long Does 18k Gold Last?
The length of time 18k gold will last will depend on how well you maintain it but also on the thickness of the gold used. There are also different types of 18k gold pieces, such as thin and hollow, gold vermeil, and solid gold pieces. 18k gold vermeil consists of a slightly thick coating of 18k gold (2.5 microns) around silver.
Since 18k gold scratches easily, the thinner the gold the used the faster it will wear out or even tarnish. This is because scratching takes away some of the gold. Similarly, constantly polishing the 18k gold to remove the scratches, slowly takes away some amount of the gold.
With that said, thinner or hollow 18k gold pieces could take around 2 years before they wear out. 18k gold vermeil has a slightly thicker gold coating so it may last slightly longer. It does, however, tarnish easily because of the silver so it may need to be polished more often.
On the other hand, solid 18k gold pieces may even take 30 years before you notice them wearing out. This is because solid 18k gold is thicker hence will take longer to chip away from the scratches and polishing.
Tips for protecting your 18k Gold Jewelry
As mentioned, the longevity of 18k gold will depend on how well you maintain the jewelry. Here are some tips for protecting and maintaining your 18k gold jewelry, so you can enjoy it for a longer time:
1.Ensure you clean the jewelry properly
The best way is to first soak the jewelry for 3 hours before using a clean polishing cloth. Avoid using paper towels since they’ll only scratch the gold further.
If you’re using soap, avoid bleach or detergents. You may, however, use rubbing alcohol to clean.
2.Schedule a professional cleaning at least every year
While you can care for the 18k gold jewelry on your own, it’s important to take it to a professional occasionally.
They would know how to best clean, polish, and restore the jewelry without further damage.
3.Avoid wearing jewelry constantly
The more you put on the jewelry, the more prone it will be to scratches or dents. If possible, you can limit wearing the jewelry to a special occasion. In the case where the 18k jewelry is your wedding ring, for example, take extra precautions to protect it. You can:
- Wear gloves when cleaning or performing heavy tasks.
- Avoid tapping your fingers on surfaces.
- Take your ring off when bathing and put it on last after getting ready.
4.Store the jewelry properly
When not wearing your jewelry, how and where you store it is very important.
Always wrap the jewelry before storing it and ensure you place it in a jewelry box.
This is because the boxes are lined with soft material that’s clean and dry hence the best storage option.
5.Choose the strongest and thickest type of 18k gold jewelry
The stronger the gold the less likely it will scratch. 18k white gold, for example, is stronger than 18k yellow one.
The thicker the jewelry, the studier it is and the longer it will last, despite the scratches.
Unfortunately, what makes 18k gold valuable is also what makes it fragile.
Still, it makes beautiful jewelry pieces, you shouldn’t have to miss out on, simply because it scratches easily.
All you have to do is practice proper maintenance and it should last for a long time to come.
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Tiger is a fashion&jewelry lover. He is also a fashion jewelry manufacturer that help thousands of small business to grow and also do business with some big fashion jewelry brands. He is a truly metal expert and he will share some information you are looking for.