For many thousands of years, gold has fulfilled the human urge to own and wear objects of beauty. Its beautiful colour and lustre, its resistance to atmospheric change and its rarity have all contributed to make it the ultimate precious metal through the ages.
As the most malleable of all metals, gold is ideally suited to the craftsman's purpose. In its pure state it would be too soft to withstand wear. Therefore, the jeweller works with an 'alloy' of gold in which it is combined with another metal such as silver, copper, nickel or zinc.
The relative proportions of gold to other metals in an alloy are described by the term carat, one carat being equal to 1/24th part by weight. 18ct is therefore 18 parts in 24 pure gold, 9ct gold is 9 parts in 24 etc. The legal standards for gold alloy in the UK are 22ct (.916), 18ct (.750), 14ct (.585) and 9ct (.375).
The price of gold jewellery is therefore dependant on the 'fineness'of the gold used.
The colour of gold is determined by the type of metal used in the alloy and the proportions in which they are combined. Silver is used to create 'white' gold, copper to produce 'red' gold. The higher the carat, the richer and deeper the colour.
One of gold's prime allures is its resistance to atmospheric change, which means it does not tarnish or rust. However, contact with some harsh chemicals, such as chlorine that may exist in cleaning fluids, should be avoided.
Gold's softness does mean that it will inevitably pick up abrasions in the course of daily wear. When storing gold try to keep items separately in soft cloth bags or original boxes.
Cleaning can be carried out using a solution of warm soapy (detergent free) water and a soft bristled brush, such as an old toothbrush.