An Introduction to Colored Gold Jewelry – Solid Yellow Gold, Rose Gold, White Gold, etc.

This 14k solid gold pocket watch case demonstrates the color versatility of karat gold alloys.

Gold is yellow, right?  Well sure, pure gold is yellow.  So how can anything other than a yellow metal still be gold?  The answer lies in the karat purity of the gold and which other metals are used to create the specific gold alloy.  Depending on the amount of pure gold used in an alloy, along with the color profiles of the other metals used, a wide range of colored gold alloys can be obtained including white (silver), green, and pink (rose gold).

If it is “SOLID” Gold, then it IS gold… despite the color

One of the beautiful qualities of gold is that it is fairly easy to alloy (mix with) other metals.  Much like mixing different colored paints or clay, mixing different colors of metals together will result in an alloy with colors reflecting the metals that were mixed.  If a whiter/lighter colored gold alloy is desired, more silver or zinc is included in the mix.  If you want more of a red/pink/orange huge, then adding more copper is the answer.

The key here is that solid gold with a known karat purity will have a consistent gold content no matter which color it appears to be.  The gold content is the same, the difference is the OTHER metals mixed into the alloy.

So, for example, a 14 karat white gold necklace will contain a large amount of silver, especially when compared to something like a 14 karat ROSE gold pendant… which will contain much more copper than the necklace.  BUT, both the necklace and pendant are 14 karat solid gold… meaning they both have a 58.3% gold content.  The same percentage of gold is in each piece, but due to the “other metals” used, the resulting colors are vastly different.

Vastly different colors of gold are possible, to an extent…

Since colored gold is a combination of all the metals used in producing a gold alloy, it stands to reason that when less gold content is used (and more of other metals), it becomes easier to change the color of the gold and to do so more dramatically.

This is why you will see much more colored gold in the 10k-14k purity range than you will with jewelry and items that contain more pure gold.  Once you get to 18k solid gold (75% pure), it becomes very difficult to change gold’s natural yellow color, simply because 3/4th of the item is already pure gold and that’s tough to hide by adding only 25% of another metal.
On the other hand, 10k solid gold is only 41.7% pure, and the remaining 58.3% can consist of a variety of different metals, colors, and alloys, making it possible to not only change the color of gold, but also enhance some of the metals other properties such as durability and hardness.

So now you know that colored gold is indeed real gold (as long as it is “solid”), and that it is much easier to make colored gold using lower karat purities like 10 karat and 14 karat gold.  The final point of this article was just touched on, and that is…

Reasons for Colored Gold Jewelry

Besides the stunning beauty and appeal that comes with different colors of solid gold (especially some of the tri-colored pieces), other characteristics of the metal can be altered as well including the hardness and durability.

Pure gold by itself is too soft to make viable jewelry.  By adding other metals into the mix, we can change the color of gold, yes.  But we can also choose secondary metals with desirable qualities like durability and sheen.

By hand-picking the secondary metals, we can produce colored gold and gold with slightly varied properties and characteristics at the same time.

Just one more example of the versatility and inherent beauty of this amazing precious metal.