Share this page:
Gold Alloys - An Overview
While gold is considered a precious metal in and of itself, it possesses a further highly valuable property for metallurgists – one that has allowed gold to become one of the most commonly employed metals since the dawn of recorded history: Gold possesses the innate capacity to be combined with other metals in order to attain other properties that add to its intrinsic aesthetic appeal.
In its pure state, gold is soft and cannot be used daily without the risk of denting, snapping off, or wearing down. Because of this, it requires alloying - blending with a metal or a number of metals in order to make it harder and more viable for general use. Since the discovery of gold, it has been alloyed with many different kinds of metal, resulting in a vast array of gold alloys of varying hues and physical properties.  When gold became a measure of wealth in later ages, varying gold prices depended on the amount of gold by weight mixed with that of other, less precious metals.
The ancient civilizations of Greece, Egypt, Assyria, and Mesopotamia were perhaps some of the earliest civilizations on record to have alloyed gold with other metals to make it harder and more viable for daily use. Because of their experimentation with alloying, many discoveries in the field of metallurgy were made possible, and their practices, or at least those practices which have survived through the ages, are still practiced, if not in form then in theory to this very day. One of the most common metals alloyed with gold is copper, a far more abundant and considerably cheaper metal than gold. Alloying gold with copper not only allowed the base metal to become harder and more malleable at the same time, but it also allowed the gold to be "extended", as it were, giving rise to the different grades of gold depending on the purity of the alloy (i.e. the amount of gold by weight compared to that of the alloyed metal). This alloy of gold and copper was very common during ancient times and is still a standard alloy used to this day. Alloys of gold and copper take on a slightly pinkish to a noticeably reddish hue depending on the amount of copper mixed with the gold.
Another metal that was alloyed with gold is silver, another precious metal that also held a notable place in the legends, and in the coffers of the ancient world. Alloys of silver and gold took on either a whitish or greenish tinge. Very popular with the ancients, it is not quite as common nowadays due to the change in aesthetic tastes. Alloys of gold and silver were once called electrum, but are today referred to as either green gold or white gold depending on the coloration. Likewise, an alloy of gold and another whitish metal such as nickel, chromium, palladium, or platinum will take on a silvery-white to off white color and is likewise referred to as white gold.
Modern metallurgical achievements have also generated a large selection of colored gold made by alloying different metals and compounds to a base of gold. Where the ancients had a staple of white, yellow, red, and green gold, nowadays purple, grey, blue and even black gold alloys are now available. 
Gold Alloys Overview - References:
Content researched and created by Alexander Leonhart for coinandbullionpages.com © coinandbullionpages.com
Note - this site provides general information about coins and bullion. None of the contents of this web site should be seen as financial or investment advice.