Often considered the ultimate measure of wealth, gold is a shimmering metal mined from the Earth for thousands of years. In fact, ancient Egyptians as far back as 3600 BC portrayed gold in their hieroglyphics as the brilliance of the sun, thanks to its color, beauty and sheen. The Mesopotamians were among the first to craft the earliest known gold jewelry, predominantly as pendants and headdresses.
Over the ensuing centuries, gold would become currency, a significant factor in religious art and a universal sign of love – with wedding bands made of gold becoming the standard. While gold has industrial uses (in microchips, stents, etc.), it shines brightest in jewelry and timepieces. In fact, it is estimated that somewhere between 60 and 70 percent of the world’s gold is used to create jewelry and fine watch cases.
The metal is quite malleable, making it perfect for shaping. Unfortunately, while its malleability makes gold a wonderful creative medium, in its pure form it is simply too soft and delicate for final use. Thus, it is often combined with other metals for added strength.
The karatage of gold refers to the proportion of pure gold in a piece of jewelry or a watch. Essentially, 24-karat gold jewelry is nearly pure, with approximately 99.5 percent of the piece being gold. Still, this is relatively soft gold, and so it is typically used only as accent jewelry pieces, such as earrings. The USA generally favors gold jewelry in the 14-karat variety, and 9-karat gold is common in the United Kingdom as a carryover from wartime restrictions. Jewelry is also available in 22-karat, 21-karat and 19-karat gold, but the most standard international karatage is 18-karat gold, containing 75 percent pure gold. This is predominantly used in fine jewelry and luxury watchmaking.
Because of its medium hardness, 18-karat gold is a very workable material for wristwatches, especially because of the ability to engrave gold. In the engraving process, one master artisan slowly and carefully works away at the metal on the case in a decorative manner—pushing the chiseled metal out of the way, while hand designing anything from vines and flowers, to scenes, geometric designs and more. While gold stamping has been perfected (predominantly for mass market items), hand workmanship is still the order of the day from the finest watch brands in the world. Today, the finest watch brands utilize gold in a host of hues to create their watches. We will bring you more about how the top colors of gold are achieved later this week. Meanwhile, stop in for a hands-on look at our gold watches.