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Colored Gold – A Metallurgical Play on Hues

When asked for the color of gold, most individuals will automatically reply that gold is yellow in color, that it is shiny, and that sometimes it can glitter, but, as the Riddle of Strider puts it, "all that is gold does not glitter", or more aptly, gold isn't always yellow-hued. While the color yellow is usually associated with gold, the metal itself is capable of taking on a variety of different colors, depending on the metal or metals that have been alloyed with it.

Gold in its natural state is often pale yellow or bright yellow, but it is too soft to be practical, and cannot be worn as jewelry or accessories without the risk of breaking easily. Due to this, pure gold must be alloyed with another metal to make it more durable. The resulting alloy also changes the coloration of the gold, either slightly or dramatically depending on the proportions, thus resulting in colored gold.

Colored gold is not a modern metallurgical feature, with examples of colored gold dating to as far back as Ancient Egpyt and Greece. The earliest examples of colored gold were white gold, green gold, and red gold. White gold was an alloy of gold, silver, and nickel. An even earlier example, known as electrum was simply an alloy of gold and silver. Green gold, also an alloy of gold and silver took on a greenish hue due to impurities found in gold in its natural state which imbued the alloy with a slightly greenish tinge. Green gold was also referred to as electrum due to its composition. Red or rose gold, a popular alloy of gold and copper is found all over the world, in varying types and recipes. This alloy, the most common of the lot, usually produced a gold that ranged from fiercely red to pinkish, and even bright yellow in hue.

Colored gold played a large role in many cultures, with one culture favoring one type of colored gold over another, or even knowing only one type of coloration owing to a limited range of metallurgical expertise. The ancient Greeks once thought of gold as red in color, due to the inherent impurities that gold ore possessed, which were inadvertently melted along with the gold prior to the advent of refining. Later on the art of coloring gold was perfected by metallurgists, so much so that distinct formulas were made that resulted in a variety of different golden hues ranging from silvery white, to a deep, rich rusty color. [1]

It was with the advent of modern metallurgical procedures that a wider range of colored gold was made available, simply by adding specific kinds of compounds to gold alloys to change some of its properties and thus achieve unique colorations or effects, or by processing the gold through electroplating or artificial agitation and aging. Nowadays, colored gold is no longer limited to the white-yellow-pink-red spectrum, but runs the gamut from purple, grey, black, and even patterned examples that have become the zenith of the metalworker’s art and mastery. [2]



Colored Gold – References:

[1] http://www.springerlink.com/content/f62830wr49150858/fulltext.pdf?MUD=MP
[2] http://www.newsletter.kaijewels.com/gold-colors.htm

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Content researched and created by Alexander Leonhart for coinandbullionpages.com © coinandbullionpages.com 2012

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