Gold is among the few colored metals that exist. It’s favored for its rich color and luster as well as being hypoallergenic. The fact that it’s a soft metal, however, means that it has to be mixed with other metal alloys to make it harder and more scratch-resistant.
You may have noticed that some gold jewelry that is yellower than others. There are several reasons for this. To help you have a better understanding, we’ll be discussing the reasons why some gold pieces of jewelry are yellower.
We will also discuss the different shades of yellow gold and why gold has different colors.
Why is Some Gold jewelry So Yellow?
The distinctive yellow color of gold jewelry for most people is a sign of wealth and is seen as a social status symbol. While in its purest form gold is yellow, you may have noticed that some gold jewelry tends to be yellower than others. The following are reasons why:
- Gold content.The biggest downside to gold is that it is a soft metal in its purest form. To make it harder it has to be mixed with other metal alloys to form different gold karats. This ends up affecting the color of the gold. As mentioned, gold is yellow in its purest form, hence the more gold content there is in a karat the richer the yellow color will be. For example, a 10k yellow gold will be paler than an 18k yellow gold. This is because the 18k has 8 parts more gold compared to the 10k.
- Metal composition.As mentioned before, mixing gold with other metals will affect the color, aside from the gold content, the ratio of other metals mixed with it matter as well. White metals like zinc and silver, for example, make the yellow color of gold paler. So, when the amount of gold is kept constant, the more the percentage of white metal, the paler the yellow color. Similarly, the presence of copper increases the red hue of gold making it more rosy than yellow. The less the percentages of these metals the yellower the resulting gold will be.
- When plating other metals using gold, most jewelers use a thin layer of either pure 24k or 22k gold. Both these karats have the highest gold content hence the most intense yellow color. That is why gold-plated jewelry will appear brighter than solid gold jewelry that uses mostly 18k gold and below. Because gold is a soft metal, the plating never lasts for a long time. Eventually, the plating will fade revealing the metal underneath.
Different Shades of Yellow Gold Jewelry
You’ve probably heard of the three common shades of color, that is, yellow, white, and rose gold. There are, however, other shades of gold that exist. The following is a complete list of the possible shades of gold jewelry:
This is the most common shade of gold. The yellow karat gold closely resembles the color of pure gold. As such the term yellow gold is used to refer to gold in general. The metal alloys used in creating yellow gold are zinc, copper, and silver. The more the gold content, the more intense the yellow color will be.
This shade of gold is sometimes called Russian gold. This is because in the early 20th century, rose gold was very popular in Russia. The color is mainly because of the large percentage of copper (reddish-brown) present in the gold. The higher the percentage of the copper the deeper the reddish hue on the gold.
Pure gold is mixed with white metal alloys to achieve a white shade. The common metals used are platinum and silver. The resulting shade, however, is more of a light grey than a white shade. As a result, white gold is normally plated with rhodium for the desired white shiny finish. This plating however wears off after some time. Metals like palladium, nickel, and cadmium, however, can achieve the desired white shade without the need for rhodium plating.
The grey shade is a variation of white gold. It depends on the types of white metals used as well as any other additional metals. A combination of white metals like silver mixed with certain ratios of mainly copper and iron can achieve the grey shade of gold.
This type of gold is a naturally occurring alloy known as electrum. It is a mixture of gold and silver. You could, however, create green gold by adding cadmium to gold. Unfortunately, cadmium is considered toxic hence must be mixed with other metals like copper and silver. This results in a darker green shade
The black shade of gold is quite rare and considered an exotic type of gold. It is obtained by heat treatment of gold with an alloy of cobalt. You could also surface treat grey gold. The color is used to make exotic pieces of jewelry.
This type of gold alloy is the most brittle. This is because it is made by mixing gold with an intermetallic compound of aluminum. Purple gold can therefore easily break. As a result, it is used to make “gems” in conventional jewelry.
The composition of blue gold is made up of pure gold mixed with varying ratios of iron and nickel. The gold alloy undergoes heat treatment to oxidize the iron and give it a blue hue. This shade can also be achieved by, mixing gold with indium or gallium.
Why is Gold Different in Colors?
The two main reasons you will notice differences in gold colors are either because of the content of pure gold or the composition of metals in that gold alloy. Higher karat gold has more intense colors compared to low karat golds, because of higher pure gold content. In terms of metal composition, the types of metals we’ve already established will affect the overall color. Copper for example will give gold a red hue, while white metals will give gold a paler color. The table below demonstrates the different compositions of gold that lead to the different common colors by comparing 9k and 18k gold:
|Gold Color||9K Gold (38% pure gold)||18K Gold (75% pure gold)|
|White Gold||Silver (55%)|
Zinc and Copper (7%)
|Yellow Gold||Zinc and Copper (52%)|
|Rose Gold||Copper and Zinc (59%)|
The different shades of yellow gold each have their advantages and disadvantages. This is especially in terms of purity, durability, and value. Some people prefer the more intense color while others may find it harsh. At the end of the day, it’s a matter of preference.