Precious Metal Alloy Materials
From the beginning of history, metals such as gold and silver have been prized for their color, luster, and texture. Gold as an object of ornamentation and currency dates back to ancient Egyptian roots. Additionally, gold and silver were used to adorn the aristocracy of pre-Columbian societies such as the Aztecs and Incas. These metals were easy to work with given their malleability and resistance to the elements.
However, the very quality that was desirable also became problematic. As gold and silver pieces became a part of the lives of regular people, the softness proved to be a problem. Gold and silver rings, cuffs, and chains would get scratched, bent, and rubbed away.
Ancient metallurgists discovered that by combining gold and silver with other stronger metals such as copper, nickel, and zinc, the precious metals were stabilized and strengthened. Today, these compounds are called alloys and account for the majority of fine jewelry pieces in the market. In modern times, platinum, the most precious metal, is also included.
To create an alloy, both the precious metal and the common metals are melted under extreme heat. The metals are placed in a crucible—a large bowl shaped vat made of a substance with a lower melting point than the metal, like clay or lead. Boric acid is melted on the surface of the crucible and also sprinkled on the metal itself to reduce oxidizing. Then they’re heated to their melting points in a furnace—ideally without oxygen present. For example, gold’s melting point is 1947 degrees Fahrenheit—almost ten times the temperature required to boil water! The metals are then combined in exact proportions and mixed slowly to ensure the consistency. The alloy is cast and cooled.
The amount of gold, silver, or platinum in a piece is carefully regulated in the U.S. by The Gold and Silver Marketing Act, a law passed to ensure the value and quality of alloys.
Most silver jewelry today is called “sterling silver.” This simply means the silver was mixed with copper to strengthen it. The process of heating silver, called annealing, also adds to the strength of the metal by stabilizing its structure. The most common ratio is 90% or 95% silver and 10% or 5% copper. While pure silver is used for many other purposes, it is impractical for jewelry.
Platinum alloys are also approximately 95% pure. Platinum is most commonly mixed with copper, iridium, palladium, or titanium. Platinum jewelry is considered very fine and the most expensive.
Measuring Karat Weight
The art and science of gold alloys is far more complicated. To make gold more durable, it is mixed with silver, copper, zinc, nickel or, most recently, palladium. In the U.S., the amount of pure gold in an alloy is measured in karats. A karat weighs approximately one gram. The amount of alloy that is mixed with the gold determines its karat weight, and therefore, its value.
In the U.S., these numbers are determined by the parts per 24 of pure gold, and the other metal with pure gold being called 24 karat. For example, 18 karat gold is 18 parts pure gold and 6 parts alloy (75%); 14 karat gold is 14 parts pure gold and 10 parts alloy (58.33%), and 10 karat gold is 10 parts pure gold and 14 parts alloy (41.6%).
The higher the karat weight, the more the piece of gold jewelry is worth. But the amount of the other metal in the alloy also determines color and durability. Yellow gold is usually 24 (pure) or 22 karat. White gold, in any karat weight, traditionally has a higher concentration of silver, or nickel. Because nickel can cause an allergic reaction, palladium is often substituted, though more expensive. Pieces with a pinkish or red hue are the result of gold mixed with copper. This gold alloy is often used to make gold necklaces and gold bracelets because of the attractiveness of the color. Any karat weight can be used to make items such as earrings, chains, and pendants, but many people find that 18k or 14k gold is ideal for beauty and wearability. Gold rings, especially men’s rings and wedding bands, are often 10 karat gold because of the frequency with which they’re worn.
However, when an individual no longer wants a piece of gold, silver, or platinum jewelry, or other item such as a coins or bars, the value of the precious metal endures. Online companies, such as Cash4Gold.com, purchase broken or unwanted gold, silver, and platinum pieces. The process is very simple. The seller requests a special envelope from the website and mails his or her gold, silver, or platinum pieces to the company. The appraisers assess the value of the piece based on the intrinsic value of the metals. This means that once the gold, silver, or platinum is melted down and the common metals are separated out, only the value of the pure metal is calculated. This value is what the owner of the pieces is paid.
The metals are separated through the same process by which they were combined. Cash4Gold’s relentless commitment to customer service ensures that this process is highly regulated and monitored to ensure accurate calculations of the intrinsic value of the gold, silver, or platinum. That value is then passed back to the owner as cash.