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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The pursuit of gold

Precious and versatile, gold is definitely the favorite material of many of our designers that love to work with its many forms from 14-k to 22-k, sometimes adorning it with diamonds or other precious stones with floral accumulations (Pippa Small) or or delicate lace (Noguchi and Anaconda) for example.

We have always used gold stretching back to prehistory. It is one of the first colored metal known by metallurgist during the Antiquity along with copper and bronze. Gold was extracted in very small quantities from the Nile and mainly used to to create religious ornaments and jewellery sets.

Hernán Cortés, the Spanish conquistador, led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec empire. A large part of the precious metal was coming from mines located in the New World that were then sent to Charles Quint and allowed great prosperity in Spain and Portugal.

The search for gold has left its mark in global history and economy. In the middle of the 19th century, the famous ‘gold rush’ happened in California and facilitated the West Conquest as well the demographic and economic development  of numerous cities in the area including San Francisco.

Today, gold still has a significant economic role and it is priced in the main stock exchanges in New York, London and Tokyo.

Gold is pretty malleable but pure, it is too soft to be used as such in jewellery. It needs to be mixed with other metals. Gold purity is measured by karat. One karat corresponds to 1/24e, 18 karats (18/24e) is an alloy with 75% of pure gold by mass.

The French state has recently authorized the commercialization of 9-k jewels as per the European regulation. 9-k jewels only contain 37,5% gold in the alloy. They are recognizable by a clover-shaped punch. Pascale Monvoisin uses it in her work.

10-k (41,69 % of pure gold) and 14-k gold (58,3% of pure gold and marked by a ‘scallop’ punch) are also used by our jewellers.

18-k gold is traditionally used in jewellery and this alloy contains 75% of pure gold. It is ideal to work with as it is rigid, inoxydable and non-allergenic. Its punch represents an eagle.

19-k gold is a specific alloy created by Monica Rossi, founder of Anaconda that has become her personal signature. Its particular color is very close to a pale yellow, almost ‘champagne’.

Some jewels are also produced in 22-k gold, mainly in India. They can easily be identified thanks to their intense yellow color and they are marked with an eagle-shaped punch in a rectangle. Cathy Waterman is a big fan of 22-k gold.

24-k gold is sometimes used in small sections such as Karen Liberman‘s roman coins that are covered with 24-k gold leaves.

Gold color may vary. It is usually yellow but also pink or grey and can be declined in other original colors such as red, green, blue or black (oxodized gold). These colors are obtained by mixing pure gold to zinc, copper, nickel, palladium or cobalt.

Cleaning your gold jewellery is very easy. You just need to soak your jewel in soap water for a few minutes then gently wipe it with a clean and soft tissue.

Picture credits : Fernando Jorge and Cathy Waterman.

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