The purity of gold is measured in a unit called karat which represents parts of gold per 24 parts as a whole. However different karats are sold for different prices often creating confusion among customers.
The collection of gold by humans dates as far back as 3000 BC when it was used by Egyptians for religious practices and rituals. Gold artifacts came into use at the beginning of the fifth millennium, while the collection of gold from stream beds and proper mining and smelting trace back to around 3500 BC. Since then, gold has been the singular entity driving entire economies and the progress of our civilization.
Today, you can buy an ounce of gold for a little under $50, sometimes as low as $35. Wait, what?! No, that first line is not a gimmick or some attention-grabbing clickbait sentence. It’s a truth that most of us fail to understand. The purity of gold is the sole detriment to its price, and there are various methods to measure it. Different qualities of gold sell for different rates, and without proper knowledge, you might be fooled by a dealer, just like so many other unaware citizens. So, if you’ve ever admired a piece of gold in a shop window, this is something you’ll want to hear!
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Why are other metals added to gold?
Gold is one of the most valuable commodities on our planet. Amongst its several uses are jewelry making, electrical applications, such as corrosion-free electrical connectors in computers, and various medicinal purposes. However, gold alone is not used in all these applications. It is often mixed with other metals and chemicals to alter its properties and suit them to the respective task.
Alloy metals are added to gold to increase the hardness and durability of coins and jewelry made from it. Gold in itself is very soft, and you can expect alloyed gold to be much harder than the pure sample in itself. Alloys are also added to alter its colors, decrease the cost per weight, or avoid the cost of high-purity refinement. For example, copper is added to gold to make a more cost-effective alloy for use in coins, housewares and jewelry, as well as give it a rose-pink color. The color of “white gold” is achieved by adding palladium or nickel.
What is the fineness of precious metals?
As the name suggests, precious metals such as gold, platinum and silver are scarce and expensive. Several factors affect the cost of these rare metals, but none is more important than the ‘fineness’ of the metal. When determining a price for precious metals, one of the first things that must be identified is how pure or fine that metal happens to be. As we already learned, precious metals are often combined or alloyed with other metals and chemicals for various reasons, which decreases their proportion in the final product.
The fineness of a valuable metal object, such as jewellery, indicates the weight of the fine metal in proportion to the total weight of the object, which includes the weight of other alloying base metals present in there. Consider, for example, a bar of gold. The entire weight of this bar is thought to be divided into 1000 parts. Now, if this bar contains 995 parts of pure gold and five parts of impurities and alloying metals, then it is said to be 995 fine or 99.5 % pure. This manner of expressing quality is known as millesimal fineness and is often expressed in units of parts per 1000. However, there is another method used extensively for denoting the quality of gold.
What is a karat of gold?
A karat is a unit that measures the purity of gold in part fine per 24 parts whole. Its is accepted as a universal norm by most nations. 24-karat gold is the purest, at about 99.5 % absolute (100% purity is practically unachievable), 18-karat gold is 18 parts gold and six parts another metal (forming an alloy of 75% gold), 12-karat gold is 12 parts gold (12 parts of another metal), and so forth. The conversion from karat to the percent of gold is fairly simple and should be used to calculate the amount of gold in an object before buying it. The karat of gold is typically stamped on the item made from it in the form of a hallmark. This hallmark represents the quality of the object being examined.
How to protect against gold scams
First of all, gold should only be bought from reputable stores and dealers. You should always check for hallmarks since the purity of American-made gold jewellery is measured in karats. Thus, there will always be a stamp on these pieces with a number followed by the letter “K”. There are various websites, such as the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), among others, that provide details on hallmarking and safeguard the interests of citizens.
If you’re still not sure, you can perform a nitric acid test on the piece of metal. This involves dissolving thin scrapings from the gold object in nitric acid. Pure gold does not dissolve, but the impurities do render solutions of different colours. Several such testing kits are available on the market and can be easily used to detect the purity of gold. Again, the invoice for purchase should always be kept safe, as it doubles as a record of the gold’s purity. In the case of doubt about the purity of gold, the retailer cannot contest the case if you produce a valid invoice.
A Final Word
The process of buying gold today is very tedious, not to mention the exorbitant prices that have rendered this bright shinning metal beyond the reach of the common man. Gold-selling shops are also not helping, as several cases have been seen where customers are blatantly misled on the purity of the metal. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the gold items at our homes were not as pure as cited by the dealer. Although the techniques mentioned above will protect you from most scams, dealers will continue introducing new schemes to dupe unwitting people. Given that, you need to be absolutely sure about the quality and purity before investing large amounts of your capital in gold!