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Gold Grades, Fineness and Karat / Carat
Gold is graded in karat / carat. A karat (carat) is a measurement of the fineness of gold. The gold grade expresses the proportion of gold in a gold alloy or the quality of that gold alloy. Pure gold or fine gold is 24 karat / 24 carat (24k, 24 kt, 24 ct) gold (.999). 24k gold (999 fineness) is the grade of gold bullion.
Gold Grade Naming Conventions
US nomenclature for the grade of gold.
UK nomenclature for the grade of gold.
Gold Karatages (Caratages)
The grades of gold reduce in karat fineness as more non-gold metal (alloy) is mixed with gold. Pure fine gold is very soft and malleable and does not lend itself well to gold objects that receive a lot of wear, as pure gold wears easily. The next grade down from pure gold is 22 karat (22k) gold (.916) , which is somewhat harder but is still easily worn away, especially if in contact with gold of lower grades. 22k gold is used in some gold coins and investment jewellery (jewelry).
18 karat (18K) gold (.75) is used for high quality jewellery (jewelry) and is the most commonly used grade in Continental European jewellery. It is considerably harder than the two previous grades but still wears more easily than 14k grade gold and lower grades of gold. It is advised that two different grades should not be worn together in order to limit the wear that could occur.
14 karat (14k) gold (.583) is the most common grade of gold used in North America. This is considerably harder than the most common UK gold grade, which is 9 karat (9k) gold (.375). There are other grades of gold, notably 15 karat (15k) gold (.625); 12 karat (12K) gold (.5) and 10 karat (10K) gold (.417). The lowest grade of gold that is acceptable for jewellery is 8 karat (8k) gold (.333)
All jewelry in the USA and jewellery in the UK. is required by law to be stamped so consumers will know the quality of gold used. This has not always been the same, even since the time of compulsory hallmarking in the UK - the reason being that some items are just too small for a hallmark to be useful in identifying the gold purity.
North America usually marks jewelry with the karat grade (10K, 14K, etc.), Other countries have different gold hallmarking conventions, for example jewellery made in the UK or Italy has a fineness stamp (417, 583, etc.).
So any piece of jewellery can have a karat grade or a fineness number stamped on it
Gold Grades at a Glance
Lowest acceptable for jewellery.
Most UK jewellery.
Lower grade Continental Europe jewellery.
Some older UK jewellery
Most North American jewellery.
Some older UK jewellery
Most Continental European jewellery.
Some coins and investment jewellery.
Gold bullion / pure gold.
Gold Grade in Relation to Gold Mining
The gold grade, when referred to in connection with the mining of gold ore is the proportion of gold contained in the ore, calculated as grammes of gold ore per tonne (g/t) of extracted material. The grades of gold ore can range from 1 g/t up to 10 g/t or more. The higher the number of grammes / tonne that can be extracted is more profitable the mine, as long as the operating costs of extraction do not deplete the cost per ounce. Some gold mines, such as deep shaft gold mines have high operating costs and are only viable if the gade of gold ore is sufficiently high to offest those cost. Mines that operate on the surface can survive on much lower grades of ore as their extraction costs are likely to be lower.
In recent years the grammes / tonne grading of gold has been increased across the board due to a greater quantity of gold being able to be extracted due to increased capabilities in the extraction process. With the price of gold at it's current levels, it has become viable to utilise these improved techniques to extract gold from gold tailings and gold slag heaps.
Gold Grade in Relation to Gold Coins
Gold coinage is a different matter altogether. Since the late 1950s gold coin traders have graded gold coins by a range of grades evaluating the quality of the condition of the coins. This standard for grading gold coins has a range running from uncirculated (the highest grade) and fair, which is the lowest grade.
Collectors of coins are sold coins on the basis of this grading method. Most gold coinage sold for collection fall into the range fine (F, VF, EF, XF) to mint (AU, Mint). Gold grades such as good (VG, G, AG) and fine (F) are "filler" coins for collectors. A table giving the mint states (MS), description and gold grade range is given below.
Gold Coin Grades
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Jemi on January 29, 2012:
How about gold sold in Singapore.
We have chinese gold and indian gold.
Indian gold is very strong brigth yellow color.
Chinese gold is lighter. It is said 999 carat or
Charles Fox (author) from United Kingdom on September 17, 2010:
If you like gold as a colour you are so right. However, there is a move towards more exotic colours, as you note is you read the series of gold hubs I have produced.
Tony from At the Gemba on September 16, 2010:
The gold for sale here in Saudi Arabia is 22K and looks so much better than what I could have bought in the UK..