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What is Spangold?

The practice of alloying gold with other metals is an ancient technique that dates back to the most early of civilizations. While gold can and is used in its pure, unalloyed form, it is too soft to be worn or used daily. Ever since the discovery of alloying, many metallurgists have experimented with alloying different metals into gold to create a diverse range of gold alloys that possess varied and unique physical and aesthetic properties. The wonderful thing about gold is that it can be alloyed with a wide variety of metals and even compounds without losing those intrinsic properties that make it one of the most prized metals throughout history. While the most common metal alloyed with gold is copper, a unique kind of gold alloy which is composed of gold alloyed to aluminum also exists. This alloy, possessing unique aesthetic qualities that cannot be found in most typical gold alloys is known as spangold.

Usually composed of an alloy of gold, aluminum, and a minute amount of copper, spangold is well noted for its unique aesthetic quality, in which tiny facets are formed on the surface of the alloy, creating a spangling effect that catches the light whenever turned resulting in the name spangold[1] . Spangold is a type of artisan gold alloy, usually referred to scientifically as an intermetallic compound[2] . It is not commonly done by jewelers, nor has it seen in many samples in the market. The spangling effect that makes it altogether unique is due to a unique reaction that is achieved while cooling the metal, where a martensitic transformation is brought about, that is – the particles that composed the aluminum-gold-copper alloy change from cubic shaped particles to tetragonal ones, thus creating a unique spangling effect that, when played with the light results in the metal’s own intrinsic fire. Unlike the more common yellow gold or white gold, spangold is considered an artisan type of gold with very limited production, often requiring that you order it from specialized jewel smiths or dealers.

Usually composed of 76% gold, 19% copper, and 5% aluminum, spangold is of the yellow gold variety, of course granted its unique spangling effect. Alternative ‘recipes’ involve a slight reduction to copper and a slight increase in the amount of aluminum added which results in a pinkish-hued spangold[3] . Any change in the composition of the metal, so long as the aluminum is left intact will result in different hues, without compromising the unique sparkling effect that is elicited due to the presence of aluminum in the alloy. Despite the special characteristics of spangold, its use in jewelry is still somewhat limited, with pieces of spangold used by itself or as settings for precious gemstones being rare and limited to a select demographic. Because spangold is unique, it is usually preferred as settings for valuable stones. Nowadays, specialized markets have the option for a customized creation of spangold jewelry, although it has not yet experienced general exposure in the wider market. Despite this, some rare examples do exist, albeit at a very hefty price.

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Content researched and created by Alexander Leonhart for ©

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