Facts and figures about Gold.
Qualities of Gold:
It's rare, beautiful, and doesn't tarnish, no wonder gold is so important.
Pure gold is softer than lead - so it has to be alloyed with other metals. This makes it possible to produce a range of colours.
The proportion of gold in the mix
is described either as parts of gold per 1000, or by carat,
where 24 carat is pure gold. In most countries only certain
qualities can be sold, and in the UK these are the legally
Gold is a satisfying metal to work. It casts well, and can be worked with simple hand tools, which have hardly changed over the years.
Customers often ask if they wear
rings made from different carat gold together, will the higher
carat gold wear faster? We've never seen any conclusive
evidence to answer this question. Inevitably 2 rings will wear
each other, and if one is an engagement ring and the other a
wedding ring - which is often the case - eventually the
engagement ring will have to be rebuilt, whereas wear to the
wedding ring is not so serious.
Is old Gold better than new Gold?
A comment we often hear is that older gold is is some ways better than new. So what are the facts?
18ct gold is 18ct gold. If a piece
of jewellery is described as, say 18ct, then 75% of the metal
is gold, the balance is other metals. And that percentage
remains exactly the same as the item ages.
Why is old gold sometimes a
different colour? As explained above, the colour depends on
other metals in the alloy, and the exact mix depends on the
company which made the alloy, as well as what colours were
fashionable when the alloy was mixed.
So which will last longer? Jewellery does slowly wear out when used, so in theory a new piece will outlast a second-hand item, provided both are made to the same quality. However on rare occasions new items may reveal casting faults when worn, normally the supplier will rectify these free of charge. But such problems are less likely to occur with second-hand items.
If gold is beaten out, it eventually forms an amazingly thin sheet, called gold leaf. In this form much of the cost lies in the work of beating it out! However even this thin, the resistance to weathering is outstanding. That's why Weathercocks are coated with gold leaf.
Since Roman times, a small quantity of gold has been mined in Wales. Sadly I have to report that the last gold mine in Wales closed at the end of January 1999, at the time of writing there is no indication that any more Welsh gold will be mined. It really is the end of an era.
Welsh gold looks exactly the same as any other gold, but it is very rare and also is expensive. That's nobody's fault, there isn't much gold to recover from the ore, so mining costs are very high, also wages in the UK are much higher than in other gold-producing countries. It is the very high cost of extraction, coupled with payments due to the British Royal Family who legally own the gold in Wales, which finally caused this industry to disappear.
Some items are sold and described as containing a proportion of Welsh gold. When we enquired we were told that less than 1% of the gold is Welsh! Buy such items for their beauty - not their content of Welsh gold! The makers of these items say they have enough Welsh gold to continue the range for a few years, after which their stock will be exhausted.
So when buying an item made from Welsh Gold, ask for a clear statement that all the gold is Welsh. Any shop selling real Welsh gold jewellery will be delighted to supply proof that you are buying genuine Welsh gold. Do note you cannot tell by the colour, Welsh gold looks the same as any other gold. Until the last mine closed, we were selling a range of jewellery which included a motif in Welsh gold, to enable the customer to clearly identify the Welsh gold, that motif was always rose gold, but this colour was achieved by alloying the gold with other metals, otherwise the colour would be exactly the same as the rest of the jewellery.
Until the mine closed we were able to supply Welsh gold wedding rings, but they were very expensive. A 9ct ring, 2mm wide would cost over (UK) £300! Unless another mine opens, the only hope of buying a Welsh gold wedding ring is the rare possibility of finding a shop with one in stock, or even less likely, buying second-hand.
Years ago, somebody had a bright idea. He took a sheet of brass and sandwiched it between 2 thin sheets of gold, then rolled them out. Then he produced rolled gold jewellery, which mostly consisted of brass with a thin coating of gold. Nowadays inevitably the gold is electro-plated on to the brass, the thicker the plating the longer the item lasts.
As a rough guide in normal wear an item loses half a micron of plating a year. So if an item is 10 micron plated, it should last 20 years. This is of course very approximate, items like rings and bracelets suffer from heavier wear, whilst ear-rings will last much longer.
While I'm talking about gold plating, if you're interested in second-hand jewellery, you may see lockets described as 9ct back and front - it's just another name for rolled gold; today that term is illegal as it's so misleading.
Other uses for Gold:
I've already mentioned its resistance to corrosion. Its other qualities which account for much of its industrial use are its low resistance to electricity and high conductivity of heat.
Small wonder that gold is often used in spacecraft, as well as in other high quality electrical items. Actually in both cases silver would be better, but its tendency to tarnish makes it less useful in high quality applications
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