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Relative gold values around the world


Hi all,

We are building a ‘world jewelry’ site here at Ganoksin, all our
comments build our content in the archives. We have a kind of
’group mind’ that can be used to address various problems. We do
this frequently with technical issues, and sometimes with other
subjects. We are a kind of ‘community of conversation’. Although
there are many messages on this list, most are succinct,
intelligent, useful and to the point. I think it is remarkable
that so many people ‘lurk’, listen, and that the number of
messages is not worse (Yes I apologize for a recent email without
a “YAK” warning on it).

At some time the value of our opinions (almost 2000 on this
list, a significant statistical number) will matter. We can use
our voice at some point for political ends. Primarily of the
’improving the life of goldsmiths’ sort of politics of course.

I would like to start a thread on relative gold value around the
world. I would like to hear your opinions. Gold is valued
economically and culturally. The only legal gold value in Italy
is 18k. They do however make tons of 14k and other gold alloys
for export. Lets hear your thoughts on the ‘value’ of gold.

It can be, for instance, worth more in India because of their
strict import rules, the practice of remaking jewelry now and
then to keep up with fashion and the way that such gold
incorporates some value from the re-working, that is the same
weight is worth more after reworking. I knew someone from
Vietnam, who in the last moments of retreat of US citizens passed
up lots of 18k gold in the market because it had no value in
their mind, compared with 22 and 24k gold. The value of a
material is often cultural.

In North America many trade jewelers advise against 22 and 24k
gold because ‘it won’t last’ yet tests have shown that a 14 or
18k gold ring has a finite lifespan before it is worn off through
abrasion but 24k gold rings last (ok you wont get to keep any
surface detail) because instead of being abraded the surface is
merely mushed around-and the material stays put. In Asia it is
the norm to use very high karat golds and the new hardenable 24k
gold alloys (“Pure Gold”-okay its a rotten trade name) make
catch builidng and mechanical construction possible in high carat

When I was a student in Germany the gold price shot up to
$800.00 US or so. The refiners experimented with 3 and 4 Karat
golds. It worked, they got them to flow and finish well, but the
gold content was so low that skin reactions attacked the gold.
They gave it up. 333 was a standard low karat gold we worked
with. There was basically only one solder for this stuff and we
did a lot of garnet and gold 'Bauernschmuck" (Farmers/folk
jewelry) with hundreds of set garnets. During setting there would
frequently be a number of prongs that would snap off, and then I
would have to reprong 10-20 prongs on the set jewelry, using one
grade of solder. I noted that about one garnet in 50 turned to a
black magnetic lump upon heating.

So, Lets hear people’s thoughts on gold, the economic value of
it and the social or cultural value.



Charles Lewton-Brain
Box 1624, Ste M, Calgary, Alberta, T2P 2L7, Canada


Charles, I love the Baht Chains I bought in Thailand, and the 18K
Jewelry I own from travels around Italy and other European
Countries. I could never understand how England ever could call
9K Gold. Now that I see 10K in many Department Store Jewelry ads,
I am saddened that we have lowered our standards. It was
difficult responding to disdain for 14K, which in many areas is
not considered Gold of value.

I totally agree with you that Asian, Indian 22-24K hold up
extremely well, the whole argument against that, is simply sour

I served Thanksgiving Dinner today using my mother’s Sterling
Flatware, my three Chinese Exchange students could not believe it
was real Silver, one even gave it the teeth test.

I believe in keeping the standard high. Teresa


Charles - I have worn a 22k gold ring for many years. It sits
next to a second band made of sterling silver. They have both
worn flat spots into each other. I have also repaired 24k Bhat
chains from Thailand where the links have worn through, not just
stretched. 22k and 24k golds wear through a little slower
because the metal is denser, but they still wear through as do
14k and 18k.

I use 22k for its color and because it does not develop a
greenish alloy on the surface after soldering. I also use it
because of its softness. It is great for heavy hammer set
bezels. I would prefer to do all of my gold work in 18k or
better. Higher karat golds are easier to work with, and their
color (at least the yellows) are much better. However, most
customers who buy gold pieces from me are unwilling to pay the
premium for anything better than 14k.

Steven Brixner - Jewelry Designer - San Diego CA USA


Why 24kt, why not 28 or 30 or 100 for that mater? Should we talk
about changing the value of the pure gold? …Gaby…


I don’t know enough of the history, but from an intuitive
perspective consider this.

  1. When one picks up a hunk of pure gold, the heft immediately
    commands your attention. such solidity, almost out of
    proportion to its scale.

  2. Try working a piece of pure gold with a hammer or try carving
    at it. Such visceral process. The feedback teaches the hand
    what to expect of the material far more quickly and directly
    that bronze (also noble in it’s own right).

  3. Amidst your growing wealth, oh great and wealthy noble,
    notice the bloom of rust and tarnish on everthing that once
    gleamed, even your visage in the now dulled bronze mirror, but
    that cup GOLD. . .untarnished, unchainged, immortal as the Sun’s
    glory, full as it is now with the admixture of sweet memory and
    burning regret.


hi i am from india and gold is the no. 1 metal here.-yes the
karatage of gold is an important issue-22K is the most readily
accepted seconded by 18K. but the major problem we face here is
that there is no hallmarking the result being 22K may not
actually be 22K.But now recently this is changing as people are
getting more aware. We have a lot of plain gold jewellery and our
studded jewellry is done in 18k and sometimes in 22K too. 14K and
16K is practically non existant-unless someone cheats you and
sells 18K as 16/14K.

Gold is bought more as an investment -to be liquidated in bad
times and that is one of the reasons we are one of the largest
consumers of gold. Reason being that the price always goes
up-this again is changing as the price of gold has stabilised.

thats for now-


I never used to think about gold much, I once bought some
Krugerands in the mid 80’s and they sure were nice to have. I
have this peculiar ability to be able to “taste” some things I’m
holding in my hands in my mouth, its like an electric taste when
I hold certain things like quartz crystals, azurite and I
discovered gold works real well for this. Now that I do this
jewelry art thing everytime I see ingots of gold I think how much
jewelry I could make with it. On tv last nite they had some
treasure salvage guy who had a 25 pound block of gold from a
Spanish galleon and I just thought what a waste it was just
sitting there as some historical ingot. I sure hope gold doesn’t
skyrocket again, jeez its only pretty metal in the long run, I
mean why do we value it more than some brasses which can be
alloyed to look like gold. Costco has a new book on the Incas and
there’s alot of astounding gold work in it…anyway, just my


Mr. Charles L-B, This will be an interesting thread. Well,
here in far northern California, an area economically depressed
for many years the jewelry business is feast or famine. Certain
high end jewelers do well and others so so. This is a very
tough market in almost all retail respects, customers wanting
something for nothing. The typical gold jewelry customer
"thinks" 14k, almost nothing else. Guess this is the North
American standard. To bad, we would love to work in 18k yellow
and palladium exclusively if our clientele would make the leap.
Most people in our experience know nothing of higher karat gold,
they don.t even ask. Recently the store owner began
"educating" her customers about karat differences via a sign in
her shop and including the (gold % and alloy) in a
holiday mailer/advetisement. We hope that encouraging people to
understand the beauty and value of higher karat gold, 18k and
above , will prove rewarding. We would love to work the higher
karat gold due to its beauty and workability. And we believe
customers, once used to its rich color will appreciate it more
than mere 14k.

Gary Dirks, Partner
Janine’s Jewelry
Redding, Ca.


Dear Gaby Szucs, some of us already use 1000 for 24ct and one of
my colleagues delights in making “devil’s gold” at 666 parts in a
1000. It’s not legal, but hey, what the hell! kind regards, Rex
from Oz


Charles Lewton-Brain has started a fascinating thread on gold
values – I would like to pick up the UK angle.

It is a curious fact that Britain has the highest standard for
silver (925 and optionally 958) but one of the lowest standards
for gold (9ct - 375)

As you might epect the reasons are a complex mix of economics,
politics and historical accident.

The sterling 925 standard originated around 1300 from the
coinage fineness and was retained up to 1919. It was maintained
as a standard for hallmarking through the power of the
Goldsmiths Company and the Assay Offices which enforce the
standard through strict legislation. It is probably as a matter
prestige for the Goldsmiths Company that this standard was not
diluted to say 800 as in Germany. A further reason may be that
the high standard was maintained to hinder those who sought to
melt down sterling coinage for manufacture. (Indeed, the higher
958 standard - the Britannia standard - was mandatory between
1697 and 1739 as a way of reinforcing this futile hope when new
coinage was introduced).

The gold fineness was 22 carat from 1576 to 1798, when 18 carat
was introduced. Then in 1854 15, 12 and 9 carat (375) were made
permissible. (The higher standards remained optionally available
for assay). Why 9 carat gold should have been permitted is
harder to explain - my supposition is that it was pressure from
the trade as the jewellery industry grew and embraced the rising
industrial class demand for cheap gold jewellery. The increased
threat of plating and base metal “golds” such as Pinchbeck would
also have pressured the trade into needing a lower precious
metal content.

Similarly we can see the high cost of sterling silver as a
factor stimulating the proliferation of industrial alternatives
in 18th and 19th century Britain – close plate, Old Sheffield
Plate, electroplate, tradename nickel silvers etc. But for
whatever reason silver remained resolutely at Sterling standard.

[For the sake of completeness I should mention that Britain does
now permit 800 fineness silver – from January 1999 we were
obliged to harmonise with other European Union countries, a
process known as the lowest common demoninator…but I will
avoid political comments!!! ]

A final point to note (which everyone should think hard about)
is that we should not forget now that silver and gold are
unimaginably cheaper than they have ever been – about 10 times
cheaper relative to purchasing power than in 1900.

Richard Leveridge, Oxford



In response to Gaby Szucs question, “Why 24kt…?” I can
suggest that there are historical reasons for the use of the
number 24. Its origins MAY be found in Mesopotamia, where the
weight of the gir^u (seed of the carob tree) is given as 1/24
of a shekel. As suggested by Powell (in “Masse und Gewichte”
[entry is in English], Reallexikon der Assyriologie, vol. 7
[Berlin; 1987-1990], p. 512) this unit of weight “is very near
the minimum mass that could be effectively measured with ancient
balances (no weight specimens lower than this have ever been
discovered and identified).” The unit was used in describing
alloying in glassmaking and with metals. However, the
developmental step by which 24-karat came to mean pure gold is
not clear to me and not necessarily Babylonian in origin.
Powell (ibid.) considers that the “usual derivation [see most
English dictionaries] of Greek keration from keras, 'horn,'
is improbable.”


In response to Gaby Szucs question, “Why 24kt…?” I can suggest
that there are historical reasons for the use of the number 24.
Its origins MAY be found in Mesopotamia, where the weight of the
gir^u (seed of the carob tree) is given as 1/24 of a shekel.

I propose an alternate hypothesis. 24 is divisible by 2,3,4,6,8
and 12. This makes it somewhat easier to calculate the proportion
of gold to base metal when preparing gold alloys. Possibly the
Mesopotamian standard for the shekel was set at 24 seeds for a
similar reason-- it’s just easier to translate fractions into
ratios of whole numbers if you begin with a denominator of 24.
How would you weigh out 2/3 of a sheckel, for instance, or 3/4 of
a sheckel, if a sheckel weighed 10 giru seeds? You wouldhave to
deal with fractional seeds, which would defeat the simplicity of
the system.

Just a thought.