“Gold is worshipped in all climates, without a single temple, and by all classes, without a single hypocrite.”
Charles Caleb Colton
I’ve always been fascinated by gold, by its history, its relationship to wealth and above all by its use in beautiful jewellery. For me it’s the ultimate precious metal, one that symbolises so many diverse feelings, from undying love to the worst kind of greed.
Those of us of a certain age will never forget the final scene in the classic Brit movie The Italian Job, (not the remake lord help us!) where the coach is hanging over the cliff edge a stack of gold bullion slipping away from Michael Cain and his fellow chirpy cockney crooks.
Why are they so keen on keeping their heavy cargo and why steal it in the first place? The answer of course is that it is incredibly valuable, but why should that be, after all it is just a metal?
Rare and lustrous
I believe people are excited by gold for two reasons, firstly because it is comparatively rare but secondly and perhaps more importantly it has qualities that no other metal possesses.
A bit of science
Unlike other elements, gold naturally possesses a subtle array of unique and beautiful colours. The atoms in gold are actually heavier than in silver and other metals, this attribute makes the electrons move faster, which in turn allows for some of the light to be absorbed into the gold, as proved by Einstein’s theory of relativity!
So you could say that gold’s distinct shine literally comes from within itself. I believe that’s is one of the reasons why it speaks to people in a romantic way, it’s literally glowing on its own.
A bit of history
But why is gold so valuable? Its unique lustre is definitely part of the answer, but rarity, history and the way its been fashioned into jewellery for centuries adds to its value.
Not forgetting of course that for many years currency was underpinned by the amount of gold a central bank held. We’ll all remember from our history lessons that Britain left the “gold standard” in 1922 but other nations to this day still hold vast reserves.
Gold became the value metal of choice thousands of years ago, predating Roman times when our ancestors were faced with coming up with a method of exchange that was easier to implement than a barter system.
Coins became the answer, of all the metals gold is the logical choice for a method of exchange that is practical, portable and has value. Other noble metals such as platinum would be a reasonable choice but are just too rare to adjust enough coins to circulate.
To assign value to a metal, it must be somewhat rare—so that not everyone is producing coins—but available enough so that a reasonable number of coins can be created for commerce. Gold is therefore perfect.
So because of its use for both barter and in jewels gold acquired a value and mystique amongst ancient peoples. Think of the Aztec and the Inca’s who were pillaged and conquered for their gold. Even in comparatively recent times there have been gold rushes creating immense wealth in California and Australia.
Use in jewellery
Most importantly to me however is that gold makes the most exquisite jewellery and has done for at least 6,000 years. The earliest known pieces, of a bull and calf, were found in Varna, Bulgaria in 1972 and date to 4500 BC.
In the modern jewellery trade gold can be mixed with other metals to create white, pink or rose gold. These variations don’t exist in nature but are created by mixing silver, palladium, copper and other metals with pure gold to change its colour.
The purity of gold is measured using ‘carats’ (cts) a determination of the percentage of gold content:
100% gold or pure gold is known as 24ct
22ct gold contains 91.6% gold and small percentages of silver, copper and zinc
18ct gold is 75% gold with the remainder comprising other precious metals
White gold contains 25% palladium a rare precious metal
Red or pink gold uses 25% copper to give its distinctive rose hue
14ct gold is 58.5% gold and 41.5% other metals
9ct contains the smallest amount of gold at 37.5%
Many people looking for distinctive silvery-gold jewellery turn to white gold as a more affordable alternative to platinum, which it resembles.
To achieve a white appearance most white gold is plated with a cousin of platinum called rhodium. The plating can wear off over time however our craftsmen at David Rodger Sharp can re-plate any piece.
Red or Rose Gold
Jewellery created from red or rose gold isn’t plated, as the copper used to make the gold is fully integrated into the metal, giving it its distinctive warm glow.
Cleaning or Tarnishing
Although gold seldom tarnishes some of the alloys can become discoloured. For example 9ct rose gold can discolour due to the amount of copper in the alloy. Fortunately cleaning is simple using a gentle solution of soapy water and a gold polishing cloth.
Remember to be careful of any gemstones set in your jewellery when cleaning and if in any doubt please ask us for advise.
Get something unique made
One of my favourite parts of being a jeweller is that I can make dreams come true. No matter what you’d like in a piece of jewellery whether for anniversary, birthday wedding or just as a gift for someone special my master craftsmen can make it for you, it doesn’t have to be gold but if it is it will be extra special.