You have a gold ring, a watch, a pair of earrings, or some necklace that was presented as a gift. As special as the act of gift giving can be, sometimes you just want to know what quality of gold you possess, whether it’s a simple curiosity or if you’re planning on pawning off items you never plan to wear again.
Can you tell the purity of gold from the comfort of your own home, or do you have to take it to a specialist to find out?
It’s extremely rare to find out you own a completely pure piece of gold. If you have it, you likely know due to its expensive and breakable nature.
Gold is naturally a soft material, which is why it has such a long history of being made into small, wearable items. Even basic tools can bend and piece together gold. As a result, it often needs to be mixed with another metal to keep it solid and stable.
Different from carats, which are the measurement of quality for diamonds, a karat is a unit of measuring the purity of gold. Gold is defined on a scale of one to twenty-four, with twenty-four karats representing absolute pure gold. The higher the karat is, the higher percentage of gold. As gold gives off a distinctly yellow color, you can tell how pure yours is by the color.
An alloy is a combination of two different metals. For gold jewelry, you’ll find a variety of different gold “colors,” which are actually just alloys with differing percentages of gold to the added material.
This is often done to gold, as it is a soft metal that needs a bit of reinforcement to avoid dents, bending, or breaking. It’s also done to help lower or to change the color for aesthetic purposes.
- White gold is often an alloy made with silver, nickel, or palladium.
- Yellow gold is often a “stronger” version of white gold, with a higher percentage of gold in the alloy.
- Rose gold (sometimes called pink or red gold) is made primarily with copper; though it’ll often contain a small percentage of silver, as copper is also a soft metal.
The more gold is in the alloy, the stronger the yellow color will be. Any rose gold or white gold is going to be a lower karat.
A Keen Eye
It’s difficult to tell the karat on your own at home, but you can attempt to figure out the general range of purity by sight.
Don’t use online photos of gold to compare your gold’s color to. It’s best to find another example you can see side by side. This is especially helpful if you know the karat of the item you’ll compare it to.
For example, if you know your ring is 12 karat gold, you could reasonably assume that your watch is of a higher percentage of gold if it looks more yellow than the ring. It may not be perfect, but it’s a great place to start if you’re curious!