Gold metals used in jewelry

Gold is one of the golden metals par excellence, however, it is not the only one that falls into this category. Since we will also find in the world of jewelry other metals with a similar appearance, but of lower value and, therefore, more accessible.

Although it should be noted that each of the gold metals used in jewelry making has its strengths and weaknesses. So choosing one or the other will depend on our needs and the knowledge we have of them. So, if you are a lover of the color gold in jewelry, you may want to know the main characteristics of the different metals that exhibit this hue and then we will tell you what they are.

24 karat pure gold

Among gold metals, 24-karat gold is the element in its purest form, possessing a rich watery orange-yellow color. In ancient times, goldsmiths used pure or high-karat gold in jewelry for royalty.

However, the items are so flexible that you can bend them with your fingers and scratch them with your fingernails. In fact, pure gold is easy to dent and even stretch if the pieces are thin, so due to this brittleness it is not practical.

Today, 24 karat gold (or close to it) is most often used for surface plating applications or thin sheets of gold. Prayed, sometimes called gold leaf. Gold foil is bonded to other metals for an ornamental effect, often in feather and paper designs. A Korean technique called keum-boo involves bonding gold foil to silver through a heating and polishing process.

yellow gold alloys

Pure gold is mixed with other metallic elements while it is in the molten state to create alloys with different properties, such as strength and various colors. The most common type of gold alloy is yellow in color and contains silver and zinc. The resulting material is more durable for long-lasting, easy-care jewelry. It also makes the material somewhat less expensive.

The karat system describes the ratio of pure gold to other metals in alloys. For example, for 14-karat gold, the 14/24-karat ratio is applied, which represents 58.3% pure gold. This is one of the most common alloys, but buyers should be aware that there are other alloys available with lower and higher karat ratings.

Jewelers must disclose the karat of material in finished jewelry pieces. A quality mark or seal is stamped or engraved on the piece with the karatage.

Other examples at the low and high end of the market are 10 karat (10/24) gold, which is 41.6% pure, and 18 karat (18/24) gold, which is 75% gold. pure. The karatage of the alloy obviously affects the price points of the finished items. It also affects the color of the metal, with higher karat alloys being more yellow and lower karat varieties appearing duller.

colored gold alloys

Whatever the intensity of the color, we tend to think of gold as a yellow-toned metal. However, you can get a range of karat gold in different colors by varying the metals added in the alloys.

White gold, for example, contains nickel. But the addition of copper to a gold alloy will result in the rose gold that is so fashionable today. Whereas with slightly less copper and a different ratio of silver and zinc, it is possible to alloy green gold.

Acopper based alloys

Both brass and bronze are gold metals made primarily of copper. These base metals have the highly prized gold hue that is popular in ornaments; but they are made from inexpensive metals and are often used for costume jewelry.

Ancient jewelry items were often made of bronze. Brass has become more common in modern times. However, both are prone to fogging and can turn the wearer’s skin green.

This discoloration is a harmless reaction for most people, but some people are allergic to these materials and should avoid them. Polishing copper-based alloys will remove tarnish. Or plating any of the alloys with other metals will improve the finish and retard tarnishing.


Brass is another of the gold metals that are known in jewelry and it is a bright yellow or reddish alloy composed of copper and zinc. There are so many combinations of brass alloys that the European Standards have more than 60 types of brass registered.

The two specific variations outlined below are the most common for jewelry making. Brass is an attractive, inexpensive metal with a golden hue, malleable and easy to work with, so it can be cast or cast. Unfortunately, brazing creates a visible seam that must be covered by engineered construction or plating for aesthetic reasons.

  • Red brass = 15% zinc and 85% copper. The high level of copper in red brass creates a red hue in the alloy.
  • Yellow brass = 33% zinc and 67% copper. Yellow brass is bright and brighter than red brass.


Among the gold metals that are in the alloy category we also have bronze. This is made up of 12% tin (or other metals) and 88% copper. However, it is a warm brown tone alloy that is quite brittle. Therefore, bronze items are cast in thick shapes to avoid weak spots that could break.

Making brass parts from sheet and wire is not practical. In addition to the beautiful golden color of bronze, an interesting fact is that it expands slightly when it goes from a molten state to a solid. Jewelers should plan for this expansion when casting.

Layered Gold Metals

Layered gold metal types are more affordable and durable alternatives to gold alloys. Most gold layered materials consist of a substantial core material with a thin surface layer of gold. These materials cannot be molded because the layers are different.

gold filled

Two or three distinct layers form a gold-filled material. The metal core is usually jewelers’ brass (10% zinc and 90% copper); although in the past, sterling silver was sometimes used instead.

Single layer gold plating has all of the gold content in a single layer on one side. Double plated gold filler divides the gold content into surface layers on both sides of the material. Heat and pressure are applied to bond the gold alloy to one or both surfaces of the brass core. Leaf and wire made from the raw gold-filled material are sold to jewelry makers for use in designs.

Gold filled contains 5% or 1/20 gold alloy by weight. This 5% should also be described by the karat of the gold alloy on the surface. Most gold fills are 12 or 14 karat. Products are identified as gold filled 14/20 either gold filled 12/20 . Alternatively, 14K Gold-Filled either 12kt Gold-Filled are also acceptable. Quality marks may be further abbreviated to 14/20 GF or 12/20 GF.

Laminated gold

Sheeted gold is a watchmaking material that is often confused with gold fill. Thin sheets of gold are fused with a brass core to make sheet gold. However, rolled gold is only required to be 1/40th gold by weight, making the gold content much lower than gold fill.

gold plated or gold plated

In the next place on the list of gold metals we could not forget about gold-plated items. Which have less gold compared to rolled gold and gold filled. Flash gold plating is approximately 0.05% gold applied over a base metal, such as brass. It has a limited shelf life and the gold layer can wear off over time; however, gold-plated items remain popular jewelry choices for limited budgets.


Under US law, Vermeil is sterling silver based and must contain a minimum of two microns of layered gold alloy. Vermeil has a thicker layer of gold than gold plated items and the plating is applied over sterling silver. The material is completely made of precious metal. The thicker vermeil plating makes the material more durable than flash plating, but is still less durable than gold filled.