The appeal of gold is universal and timeless. The most malleable metal, gold can be bent, twisted, stretched, hammered and milled, lending itself to a wide spectrum of jewelry shapes and textures. This precious metal enhances everything from big, bold fashionable designs to intricately detailed treasures. The styles available for chains, necklaces, pendants, earrings, bracelets and rings are only limited by the designer's imagination.
Gold's radiance has captivated both men and women for thousands of years. The first recorded gold finds can be traced to ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Since ancient times, it has served as both currency and decoration. As early as 3000 BC, gold rings were used as payment for debts. Throughout history, gold has been extensively used as decoration, in jewelry and other adornments.
Despite its widespread popularity, gold has always been a rare commodity: All the gold ever mined would fit into a cube approximately 70 feet on each side. As such, its status endures as a symbol of wealth and prosperity.
Rich mines in South Africa produce about half of the world's annual gold output. Russia is the second largest gold producer, with additional deposits found in Australia and the United States. Currently, the largest U.S. mine, the Homestake, is located in South Dakota.
Gold is mined from the earth in two forms: nuggets and dust. The methods used to mine gold are costly and time-consuming. No fewer than three - and sometimes as many as ten - tons of ore must be extracted to produce a single ounce of gold. Even after thousands of years, technology has yet to succeed in making gold mining easy or inexpensive, so it remains a valuable commodity.
Pure gold is too soft to be used in everyday jewelry. The metal would bend out of shape and wear away. Therefore, gold must be combined with an alloy - or base metal - to make it more durable. Copper, zinc, nickel and silver are metals commonly mixed with gold for use in jewelry.
It is the amount of alloy mixed with the gold that determines the karat weight of gold, which is measured in 24ths. Pure gold is 24K. The composition of other grades, with the percentage of gold versus percentage of alloy expressed as a decimal, are:
Alloys of less than 10K are not considered gold, under U.S. Federal law.
Have you ever discovered a black film on your skin where you've worn gold jewelry? That discoloration is caused by a reaction between the gold jewelry and the wearers' skin. There's nothing wrong with the jewelry; it's just chemistry. The higher the percentage of base metal alloy, the more likely it is that a reaction will occur. Another good reason why Shane Co. sells nothing less than 14K gold jewelry.
As an element, gold exists naturally only in its namesake color. It can be combined with alloys not only for strength, but to create intriguing colors and designs:
White and yellow gold are most prevalent in jewelry. White gold is the sturdiest of the colored golds, which is why it's frequently used in prongs in diamond setting. Such white gold settings resist hard blows and tend to enhance the color of the gemstones. Like platinum, white gold is enjoying a resurgence in popularity with today's interest in white metals.
Gold is considered a commodity in the world markets, with the price, which fluctuates, generally controlled by large investors. Every day, the opening London "fix" price is published worldwide in newspapers and the closing price is listed on the New York Commodity Exchange.
Jewelers measure gold weight in pennyweights (DWT). There are 20 pennyweights to one Troy ounce. In the metric system, one pennyweight equals 1.555 grams.
The price of gold on world markets is only one of the factors influencing the price you pay for a given piece of gold jewelry. Besides the raw gold material, the designer or manufacturer incurs costs of production, labor, quality control, overhead and other incidentals. Traditionally, the jewelry wholesaler and retailer also have distribution, marketing and other overhead expenses that add to the final price tag.