Gold has captivated mankind since the dawn of time. The Egyptians, the largest users of gold in the ancient world, equated gold with the sun and reserved its use exclusively for pharaohs. Gold jewelry – either purchased for yourself or as a gift – provides a lasting symbol of life’s significant events, emotions and accomplishments.

Gold Purity & Quality Marks

Always look for a quality mark in the gold jewelry you buy. Pure gold, or 24-karat, is generally too soft for use in most jewelry, so gold is alloyed with other metals to increase its strength. In the United States, 14-karat gold is the most common jewelry alloy, and nothing less than 10-karat gold can be legally marked or sold as gold jewelry.

Gold plated jewelry is often indicated with a “GP” marking stamped somewhere on the piece. 

Quality Marks on Karat Gold Jewelry

KaratageKarat MarkEuropean MarkPercent Pure Gold
10-karat 10K 417 41.7%
14-karat 14K 585 58.3%
18-karat 18K 750 75.0%
24-karat 24K 999 99.99%

Beyond Yellow: The Gold Alloys

When discussing metals, you'll often hear the term alloy. A metal alloy is a metal made by combining two or more metals, to increase the strength and/or resistance to corrosion of the base metal. The ratio of each component determines the properties of the alloy. Alloys can also create a variety of colors.

White Gold

One of the most popular gold alloys is white gold, and it is an affordable and fashionable white-metal option. White gold is created by alloying gold with nickel or palladium, zinc and copper.

Why does white gold yellow?
White gold alloys are never truly “white” in color, so most white gold jewelry is plated with rhodium, a platinum group metal. Most likely within the white gold jewelry’s lifespan, the rhodium plating will show signs of wear, and re-plating at your local jewelry store can easily restore its brilliant white finish.

Rose Gold

Fine jewelry customers are having a love affair for rose gold. The beautiful warm blush flatters skin tones. Pink or rose gold is created by alloying gold with copper. Most often, you’ll find 14-karat rose gold jewelry, which is 58.5% pure gold with copper added for color.

Rose gold comes in a variety of shades of pink, that blend well with gemstone colors and white and yellow metals.


Sterling silver jewelry is often electroplated with karat gold. When the thickness of the karat gold plating is at least 100 millionths of an inch thick, it is referred to as “vermeil,” pronounced “vermay.” Vermeil jewelry is an affordable alternative to jewelry made completely with karat gold. Items meeting this definition may be stamped with standard sterling markings or with the word “vermeil.”

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