The Many Colors of Gold

When most people think of gold, the image that comes to mind is of a metal with a soft, yellow glow. Indeed, the incomparable golden hue of this precious metal has been part of its appeal for centuries. But for the gold jewelry connoisseur, there are more shades of gold available than just yellow – and in a spectrum of different hues. The tint the gold takes on depends on the metals it is mixed, or alloyed with.

The main shades of gold:

Yellow gold
This is gold in its natural shade. It is by far the most common type of gold used in jewelry. Yellow gold used for jewelry is usually alloyed with copper and silver to strengthen it. The warm glow of yellow gold works with virtually any outfit, any skin or body type and any gemstone. How yellow a piece is will depend on its gold content. Generally, 14 karat gold has a brighter yellow than 10 karat gold; 18 karat gold has a deeper yellow than 14 karat gold, and so on.

White gold
White gold has become very fashionable in recent years as many consumers have opted for the cool, contemporary white look over the classic yellow look. White gold has the same properties as yellow gold, but is mixed with different alloys to give it its white color. Generally, white gold is created by using a nickel or palladium alloy, zinc and copper. Sometimes, white gold is plated with an even whiter metal, such as rhodium (a rare member of the platinum family) to enhance its appearance. A white gold setting can enhance the look of white diamonds and put a modern twist on a traditional standard.

Rose gold
By alloying just copper with yellow gold, metalsmiths can create gold with a pink, blush-like tint, which experts say lends a soft, flattering effect to the skin.

Green gold
This alloy is created by mixing silver, copper and zinc to yellow gold.

The other types of gold jewelry include gold-filled, gold-plated and vermeil. Gold-filled refers to a layer of gold mechanically bonded to a base (non-precious) metal; the gold content must be at least 1/20th of the total weight of the piece. Gold-plated merchandise has a coating of 10 karat gold or higher applied to a base metal by electrolysis. Vermeil is jewelry that is made by applying a layer of karat gold to a sterling silver base.

To keep the classic appeal of yellow gold but update it with a more modern look, many women are opting for two-tone styles that combine white and yellow gold within the same piece. These types of pieces are considered very fashionable and have become particularly popular in bridal jewelry in recent year.

For an even more original look, some women are choosing jewelry which combines three colors of gold (most often yellow, rose and green) within the same piece.