Gold is the most malleable of precious metals and is prized for jewelry because it does not corrode, tarnish or rust. It can be found nearly everywhere, in rivers, mountains and oceans, but it is very difficult and expensive to mine and refine.
The karat is a unit of measurement for the proportion of gold an item contains.
- 24 karat (24K) gold is pure gold. Pure gold is very soft and it is usually alloyed (combined) with other metals for increased hardness and durability. Metals typically used in gold alloys are copper, silver, nickel, zinc, tin, palladium, and/or manganese. The metal used will affect the color of the gold: yellow, rose, green or white. (People with nickel allergies should be aware that white gold contains nickel.)
- 18 karat (18K) gold contains 18 parts gold and 6 parts other metal, making it 75% gold.
- 14 karat (14K) gold contains 14 parts gold and 10 parts other metal, making it 58.3% gold.
- 12 karat (12K) gold contains 12 parts gold and 12 parts other metal, making it 50% gold.
- 10 karat (10K) gold contains 10 parts gold and 14 parts other metal, making it 41.7% gold. 10k gold is the minimum karat designation that can still be called gold in the USA.
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