The Golden Varieties: Unraveling 12 Gold Types and Colors

Gold Types and Colors

When discussing types of gold, it is essential to mention that gold doesn’t only refer to the shiny yellow metal we commonly associate with jewelry and wealth. In fact, gold comes in various types, defined by its purity, color, and even where it’s mined from. The diversity in gold types can affect its price, appearance, and usage.

Colors of Gold

  • Yellow Gold
    Yellow Gold Historically, yellow gold has been the most commonly used and recognized form of this precious metal. Its inherent beauty, radiance, and malleability made it a favorite material for crafting various artifacts in ancient civilizations. It remains a popular choice today for traditional and timeless jewelry pieces. In terms of pricing, yellow gold varies depending on its karat weight, with 24k being the most expensive due to its high gold content. This type of gold is commonly used in all types of jewelry, from engagement rings to necklaces and bracelets, given its hypoallergenic properties. Yellow gold is abundantly found and used across various cultures and geographies, making it one of the most accessible forms of gold.

  • Gold, Rose Gold, White Gold
  • White Gold
    White Gold Introduced to the world in the 1920s as a cost-effective alternative to the highly prized platinum, white gold quickly rose in popularity. It’s often plated with rhodium, a robust and shiny metal, to enhance its durability and brightness. The price of white gold is typically comparable to yellow gold, but the additional rhodium plating can sometimes increase the cost slightly. Its bright luster and neutral tone make it an ideal backdrop for diamonds and other gemstones, leading to its widespread use in engagement rings and wedding bands. Despite its relatively recent introduction, white gold is quite common in the jewelry market.

  • Rose Gold
    Rose Gold With its origins dating back to 19th century Russia, rose gold, originally referred to as “Russian gold,” is characterized by its beautiful pinkish hue. The unique color results from a higher proportion of copper in the alloy, and the degree of redness increases with the copper content. While the price is generally similar to yellow gold, it can sometimes be slightly cheaper due to the cost-effectiveness of copper. The vintage appeal and romantic connotation of rose gold have made it popular in various jewelry styles, from engagement rings to fashionable bracelets and watches. While not as prevalent as yellow or white gold, rose gold is fairly common, particularly in vintage-inspired and trendy contemporary designs.

  • Green Gold
    Green Gold Bar Green Gold Known as Electrum, green gold has a historical significance with usage dating back to ancient Egypt and Greece. This naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver imparts a subtle greenish tint, often enhanced with additional metals like copper and cadmium in commercial versions. The price of green gold is typically on par with yellow gold, although it can sometimes command a premium depending on the alloyed metals and the uniqueness of the piece. While it is less commonly used than yellow, white, or rose gold, it has found a niche in specialized, artisanal jewelry where its unique hue can be showcased.

  • Black Gold
    Black Gold Black gold is a contemporary invention, largely used in avant-garde jewelry. Its creation involves either a layer of black rhodium or ruthenium electroplating or a controlled oxidation process that darkens the gold surface. The unique processes and striking final result often make black gold more expensive than traditional gold colors. This bold and modern version of gold is not as widely used as the more traditional colors but has gained popularity in recent years, particularly among those seeking an edgy and unique aesthetic for their jewelry.

  • Blue Gold
    Blue Gold Bar Blue Gold Blue gold is an intriguing and less conventional form of this precious metal. It’s produced by alloying gold with either gallium or indium, both of which can oxidize and result in a bluish tint. Historically, blue gold doesn’t have the same widespread usage as more common gold colors, primarily due to the scarcity of gallium and indium and the complexity of the alloying process. This makes blue gold more expensive and less commonly found in standard jewelry collections. However, its distinct hue has made it a sought-after choice in specialized or custom jewelry, especially for those desiring a unique and standout piece.

  • Purple Gold
    Purple Gold Also referred to as amethyst gold, purple gold is one of the rarest forms of gold, largely due to its composition and the complexity of working with it. A gold-aluminum alloy, purple gold is usually rich in gold content but is notably brittle, making it difficult to mold into traditional jewelry. As such, it’s often found in unique watch components or specialized jewelry pieces. Given its unique color and the complexity of crafting it into usable forms, purple gold generally carries a higher price tag compared to more common gold colors.

  • Gray Gold
    Gray Gold Gray gold is an intriguing and subtle color variation of gold that is created by alloying gold with palladium or by adding a small amount of iron. Despite its unique and contemporary appeal, gray gold is less common in standard jewelry due to the cost of palladium and the alternative appeal of white gold. Its usage is usually seen in specialized or custom pieces, providing a subdued yet sophisticated color palette for modern designs. In terms of price, gray gold is typically on par with white gold but can sometimes command a premium, especially if palladium is used in the alloying process.

Each color of gold, with its unique blend of metals and distinct hue, offers a unique appeal and charm. This vast array of colors makes gold one of the most versatile materials for jewelry, capable of fulfilling a wide range of aesthetic preferences and styles. Whether you’re drawn to the traditional allure of yellow gold, the modern sophistication of white and gray gold, or the unusual appeal of colors like green, blue, or purple, there’s a type of gold out there to meet your tastes.

Gold Types and Colors
Gold Color Rarity Material Composition
Yellow Gold Common Gold, Copper, Silver
White Gold Common Gold, Palladium/Manganese/Nickel, Rhodium plating
Rose Gold Fairly Common Gold, Copper
Green Gold Less Common Gold, Silver (additional Copper and Cadmium in commercial versions)
Black Gold Less Common Gold, Black Rhodium/Ruthenium or other blackening agents
Blue Gold Rare Gold, Gallium or Indium
Purple Gold Very Rare Gold, Aluminium
Gray Gold Less Common Gold, Palladium or Iron

Gold Karats – How Many Types of Gold Are There?

Different types of gold are usually defined by their karat, a unit of measurement expressing the purity of gold, which is integral to understanding the value and quality of this precious metal. To understand this concept better, especially as it differentiates from the “carat” system used for gemstones and pearls, refer to this comprehensive article on What is a Carat.

24k Gold

  • Purity: 24k gold is 100% pure gold. It doesn’t contain any additional metals.
  • History: The legacy of 24k gold spans across millennia. Ancient civilizations like the Egyptians and Greeks cherished its purity, associating it with the divine. Throughout history, 24k gold has been highly prized, symbolizing wealth, power, and prestige.
  • Usage: Due to its softness, it’s typically not utilized in everyday wear jewelry. Instead, it finds its application more in gold bars, coins, or ceremonial artifacts.
  • Price: Being the purest form of gold, 24k commands the highest price per gram.
  • Popularity: It’s less prevalent in Western jewelry but enjoys greater popularity in parts of Asia and the Middle East, where high-purity gold is traditionally favored.
  • Purity: 22k gold contains 22 parts gold and 2 parts of other metals like copper or silver, making it 91.67% pure.
  • History: Historically, 22k gold has been frequently used, dating back to ancient and medieval times. It was typically used for coinage and ornamental decorations.
  • Usage: Today, 22k gold is commonly found in high-quality jewelry and ornaments, especially in countries like India and Saudi Arabia, where gold jewelry often serves as an investment and status symbol.
  • Price: The price per gram of 22k gold is slightly less than 24k but still relatively high because of its significant gold content.
  • Popularity: 22k gold is less commonly used in Western countries but remains a popular choice in Middle Eastern and South Asian countries.

18k Gold

  • Purity: 18k gold contains 18 parts gold and 6 parts of other metals, typically copper, silver, or nickel, making it 75% pure.
  • History: 18k gold became popular around the 14th century in various parts of the world. It’s been associated with luxury and elegance for centuries.
  • Usage: Today, 18k gold is used in fine jewelry pieces, including engagement rings, necklaces, bracelets, and watches. Its balance of durability and precious metal content makes it ideal for pieces designed to last.
  • Price: 18k gold is less expensive per gram than 24k and 22k gold due to its lower gold content, but it still commands a relatively high price due to its luxurious appeal and substantial gold content.
  • Popularity: This type of gold enjoys global popularity due to its balance of durability, affordability, and high gold content.

14k Gold

  • Purity: 14k gold contains 14 parts gold and 10 parts of other metals, often a combination of copper, silver, and zinc, making it 58.3% pure.
  • History: The popularity of 14k gold surged in the 20th century, especially in Western countries, due to its affordability and durability.
  • Usage: 14k gold is used in a wide range of jewelry types, including rings, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and pendants. It’s a versatile choice that offers a good balance between price and durability.
  • Price: 14k gold is more affordable than 18k and higher karats, making it an accessible choice for many people.
  • Popularity: It’s the most commonly used type of gold for jewelry in the United States and many other Western countries.

10k Gold

  • Purity: 10k gold contains 10 parts gold and 14 parts other metals such as copper, silver, nickel, or zinc, making it 41.7% pure.
  • History: 10k gold became popular in the 20th century as a budget-friendly alternative for gold jewelry.
  • Usage: It’s typically used in budget-friendly jewelry, including rings, bracelets, and pendants.
  • Price: As the least pure form of gold that can still legally be marked as gold in the United States, 10k gold is significantly more affordable than higher-karat gold.
  • Popularity: While it’s common in budget-friendly jewelry, it’s less popular than 14k and 18k for fine jewelry due to its lower gold content.

Understanding the different karats of gold and their respective characteristics can help when choosing gold jewelry or investments. The choice between these types depends on various factors, including personal preference, budget, and the desired balance between durability and the value of the gold content.

Different Types of Gold Karats
Karat Purity Pros Cons Price (Relative) Popularity
24k 100% Purest form, highest value Soft, not ideal for daily wear Highest Less common
22k 91.67% High gold content, durable Softer than lower karats High Less common
18k 75% Good balance of purity & durability, ideal for fine jewelry More expensive than lower karats Medium-High Very popular
14k 58.3% Very durable, more affordable Lower gold content Medium Most popular
10k 41.7% Most durable, most affordable Lowest gold content, less bright Low Common

Tarnish Resistance of Different Gold Types
A popular question when dealing with different types of gold is, “Does gold tarnish?” The answer is no; pure gold itself does not tarnish. However, the other metals that are mixed with gold to make various alloys can oxidize, leading to discoloration or tarnish.

This is why gold’s tarnishing resistance often depends on its purity. Higher karat gold, such as 24k, 22k, and 18k, is more resistant to tarnishing due to the higher gold content. Lower karat gold, such as 14k and 10k, contain larger proportions of other metals, increasing the risk of tarnishing, especially when exposed to certain chemicals or atmospheric conditions.

For a more in-depth understanding of why and when gold might tarnish, see the article: Does Gold Tarnish.

The term “highest quality” can be somewhat subjective when talking about gold. If we’re referring to the purest form of gold, then 24k gold is the highest quality. This type of gold is 100% pure, but it’s also the softest, making it less suitable for everyday jewelry because it can easily scratch and bend.

On the other hand, if by “highest quality” we mean the best for practical applications such as jewelry, then 14k and 18k gold could be considered highest quality. These gold types offer a balance between gold content, durability, and affordability. 14k and 18k gold contain a higher percentage of gold than 10k but are more durable than 24k gold.

What is the Most Common Type of Gold?

14k gold is the most common type of gold for jewelry in many countries, including the United States. It offers an appealing balance of durability, affordability, and a relatively high gold content, making it a popular choice for many types of jewelry, including rings, bracelets, and necklaces.

What are Rare Types of Gold?

When discussing rare types of gold, one could consider gold sourced from particular mines or regions as rare. For example, gold from the Gold Rush era mines in California or from the Witwatersrand Basin in South Africa could be seen as rare due to their historical and geographical significance.

In terms of karats and colors, black gold and blue gold are quite rare. Black gold is typically created through electroplating methods or mixing gold with black-colored metals. Blue gold is an alloy of gold and indium or gallium, which are relatively rare metals.

Which Color Of Gold Is The Most Expensive?

The cost of gold isn’t typically influenced by its color but rather by its purity and weight. That being said, the price can slightly vary depending on the alloying metals. For example, since palladium (used in making white gold) and platinum (used for rhodium plating white gold) are more expensive than copper or silver (used in yellow or rose gold), white gold can sometimes be more expensive than other types of gold.

However, the most expensive gold is generally the purest—24k gold—regardless of color. Its high cost is due to its 100% gold content and the premium associated with the refinement process to attain such purity.