What Are the Different Types of Gold That Exist on the Market Today?

Investing in gold and silver, gold and silver bars

Gold has captured the imagination of mankind since before the dawn of civilization. We forged jewelry, built economies and civilizations, and yes, even gone to war over its alluring glint. Even now, we rely on gold to adorn our fingers, establish wealth and dominance, and power up our electronic devices.

Gold and gold alloys hold a special place in our collective consciousness. However, understanding the myriad types of gold available on the market today can be tricky if you’re not a metallurgist. So, our simple guide will break down the different metals available on the gold market, and explain the differences between various gold colors and karats.

Caring About Gold Karats: What Do They Mean?

You can’t even begin a discussion about the types of gold without digging into karats. So, let’s start by defining what, precisely, gold karats are. Karats, in simplest terms, are a unit used to measure the purity of the gold in an alloy. Karats run on a scale of 0-24, with 24 having the highest concentration of buy gold online and 0, the lowest.

You’ll most often see karats or karatage discussed when shopping for fine jewelry such as engagement rings. (Where it can often get confused with caratage, or the unit of measure for the weight of a diamond.) The most common karatage you’ll see for jewelry includes, but is by no means limited to:

  • 24K gold, or pure gold, which is rare, soft, and expensive
  • 18K gold, or 75% pure gold, which is the most common metal for rings in Europe and Asia
  • 14K gold, or around 58% pure gold, which is the most common metal for US engagement rings
  • 10K gold, or the lowest concentration that can be sold as gold by law

Once you get below 10 karats, the metal cannot be sold as if it were gold. So, if you see someone trying to sell something below that amount as gold, not a gold alloy, they are breaking the law.

Understanding What Causes Different Gold Colors

When you think of gold, you most likely think of yellow gold, which is by far the most common color. Pure gold will have the most yellow tones, while gold alloys will have white or even green undertones. Some of the most common gold colors (aside from yellow) available today include:

  • White gold, which is an alloy of gold and white metals
  • Rose gold, which gets its pinkish hue from its high copper
  • Purple and blue gold, which are alloys of gold and aluminum used by jewelers
  • Green gold, which tends to have a high electrum content

As you see, the purity and the concentrations of the metals within it affect the color of the gold itself. Depending on your aesthetic tastes, you can find a shade of gold best suited to you. However, of all of them, white, rose, and yellow are the most popular for jewelry.

Gold Alloys: Crucial to Modern Life

Now, let’s dig into the most common usage of gold alloys: As conductive materials for electricity. While many electronic devices now tend to use Platinum Group Metals or PGMs, some still adhere to the gold standard. Basically any device with a central processing unit these days will have a decent amount of gold inside it.

Gold alloys can get threaded through cables for information and power. They also appear in the CPU pins and circuit boards of a multitude of devices, including laptops, televisions, tablets, gaming consoles, and media players.

Why does gold show up so often in modern electronics? The answer lies in its high conductivity and resistance to corrosion. Electricity can wreak havoc on anything it touches, even metals that conduct it. So, metals that can resist breaking or falling apart under a constant stream of the stuff have unmatchable value in our always-online world.

Plates, Leafs, Rolls, and Fills: Other Pieces of the Gold Market

Thus far, we’ve discussed items either made from gold or containing gold alloys. However, there are many other types of gold available on the market in much smaller concentrations. These types of gold can include:

  • Gold leaf, or very thin pieces of gold alloy that can be flaked into food or folded over crafting projects
  • Gold plate, which is gold fused over brass or copper via electroplating
  • Vermeil, which is thicker than gold plate and gets fused to silver
  • Rolled gold, which uses thin sheets of gold rolled over a core of brass

Another common use you’ll find is gold-filled jewelry, where the gold alloy gets fused with its base metal by getting melted to it. This is the best type of plating you can find, as it contains the largest amount of gold by weight and percentage.

Why Isn’t Pure Gold More Popular?

Pure gold is considered the highest quality metal, and yet it’s not as popular in jewelry or electronics. Why is this? The main reason lies in its softness. Pure gold is extremely soft and malleable, making it difficult to work without breaking it. Despite its resistance to corrosion and tarnishing, it can prove quite brittle and fragile if not handled correctly.

This, along with pure gold’s relative scarcity, can go a long way towards explaining why it’s one of the less popular types of gold on the market today.

Let’s Review the Basic Types of Gold Available Today

From white gold to rose gold, from pure gold to gold alloys, there are many different types of gold available on the market today. This gold can show up in a variety of contexts, from the conductive alloys in electronics to the gorgeous engagement rings adorning celebrity fingers. Regardless of its use and type, gold remains the standard by which we judge every other metal we know.

Did you find this article about the types of gold helpful? If so, and if you’d like to learn more about the ways you use gold in your day to day life, check out the fashion section of our blog for more.

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