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What is “real” gold?

Hello everyone,

This is a question every metalsmith asks themselves at one point, what is “real” gold? Obviously it is that deep reddish yellow soft, dense, noble metal that we all know and love. I am not talking about pure gold however, I am asking what karatage constitutes “gold”? To south East Asia it is 22K to Europe it is 18K and here it 14K. In the UK it might be 9K. I do not mean what is legally acceptable either, what politicians have decided is gold or even what is culturally accepted as it.

I am wondering, what karats can be considered “real” gold. 22K might be too soft but it is certainly real gold. 18K is the international standard and is widely viewed as the “best” gold karat. However the lower karats are more controversial, as the main reason to go lower than eighteen is to lower costs, is this a valid reason to dilute the gold? If a customer desires a piece of jewellery, I would rather it be handmade in 10K than mass produced in 18K. The colour is paler and the properties worse but it still contains gold, so how can it be considered not “real”. It may not be as pure but still contains 40% real gold (although I realize it is actually 1 atom in every four due to density). I remain firmly on the fence here, making whatever a customer wants with my recommendations of course and enjoying the whatever pieces I make for myself both of higher karatage and lower, because let’s be honest, they all contain some degree of “real” gold. I am interested in hearing an opinions,


I don’t have the answer to your questions. I have heard, however, that 14k and higher is considered fine jewelry. Below 14kt doesn’t count.

For me i consider real gold as in not plated

The definition of fine jewellery is also something very interesting! Personally I don’t really see the point of defining fine jewellery as to me if it is made my a craftsman (even cast) it will be better quality than if it was made by a machine. Knowing a person made something just for you in jewellery is a very special thing.

I don’t understand why 14K would be used in “fine jewellery” if they are going to exclude 10K they might aswell go full 18K. Most of the big name stores like Tiffany have done this.

I found this article:

It’s all a very interesting discussion. Thanks for the link :):grin:

There was a discussion on Orchid about this a number of years ago as well. It kind of depends really on what your motivation for the naming is. . .being technically accurate or as a marketing term. As you observed, 14K only contains 1 atom of gold out of every 4 or so. What that means is that 14K isn’t a gold alloy, but rather a base-metal alloy with gold in it which isn’t good marketing. As I recall, 18K is approximately the first stop on the karat list where gold becomes the dominant metal at the atomic level and so is a true “gold alloy”. At least that’s what I recall the take-away being.

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The question is “what is real gold”, I think real gold is when you go panning in streams with the family and everyone has a pan and everyone scoops up a little dirt from the bottom of the stream and goes from there… I’ve seen it on Old Western Movies, seemed like a lot of fun and its a day out with the family. Good Luck with your panning… now that’s real gold… Regards, Richard Lucas :thinking: lol :slight_smile:

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Last August, the US Federal Trade Commission eliminated the minimum 10K threshold for identifying items as gold.

Now no matter how low the fineness, you can describe a product as gold in the US if a correct designation of the fineness immediately precedes the word gold or its abbreviation, e.g. 2K gold.

Many trade members are upset and are lobbying the FTC to change it back to the previous guidelines.

Renee Newman

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@ArgentumMoon, the word “fine” refers to purity. Technically “fine” gold is 24k or very close to it. Any other use of the word “fine” is simply marketing.

Your mention of “they” is actually “those who market jewelry”. There are no rules in marketing metal jewelry, other than legal guidelines for stamping and marking, which was recently revised to include the lowest levels of purity.

Therefore, “fine” jewelry is not easily defined, and marketing is controversial.

Any opinions about recent campaigns marketing to millennials? I love wearing a hoodie as much as anyone, but seeing this mural while window shopping would send me scampering across the street:

Depends on if you are comparing by atoms or by weight. Plus I wouldn’t exactly call silver a base metal but certainly copper.

I am not sure people would follow me if I bust out the periodic table and start talking about atomic weights, moles and Avogadro’s Number. :smiley:

If you look at the individual atoms using Avogadro’s constant as you said, there are only 2 atoms of gold out of every 9!

In 10K at least.

Agreed 10k at least

6.022 x 10^23 :nerd_face: :hedgehog:
(I was looking for a mole, but the closest I could find was a hedgehog.)

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