Unlike a car, television or a house, gold is not something that greatly varies in its purest form. Gold found in ancient ruins from thousands of years ago will technically (if we ignore the novel/antique aspect of it) have the same worth as a newly minted gold coin in present day IF they have identical weight and purity. So the different gold types discussed in the industry are simply variations of pure gold, meaning types of gold that have taken a different form due to being mixed with other metals, or taking different shapes, or simply represented in different forms. The purpose of this post is to remove any sort of confusion that might be present about what’s gold, what isn’t - and usually most critical, how much actual gold is inside ‘it’.
9K, 10K, 12K, 14K, 18K, 22K, 24K Gold: You might have heard gold being described by a certain number followed by the letter ‘K’. This simply tells you how much actual gold is in the ‘gold’ jewelry or object in question. Something that is 24K gold is technically pure gold (although depending on the country, pureness of 99% is usually enough to qualify it as 24K). The K refers to the term ‘karat’ or ‘carat’ which is an ancient form of weight but now is used to determine the pureness of the gold in question. For example 12K (which is half of 24K), would tell you that your ‘gold’ item has 50% actual gold inside it, with the rest being other types of metal such as copper and silver. So whatever the karat value of your gold, divide it by 24 and multiply by 100 to reach the % purity that your gold holds. In the U.S. gold below 10K purity can’t be sold as gold jewelry.
Colored Gold: Gold can take different colors depending on the metals it is mixed with. The different gold hues are generally for the purpose of jewelry. To give you a quick idea here are some different types of gold colors and how they are made:
1) White Gold: For gold to take a white color, it must be mixed with a white metal such as nickel, manganese or palladium. Standard White gold is usually 14K of gold (58.5% purity) while the rest is divided as 21% copper, 7.84% zinc, and 12.73% nickel. and White gold can often be rhodium plated to give it a more shiny and white appearance. 2) Rose, Pink, Red Gold: Gold can take these colors when mixed with copper. The more copper in the alloy, the darker the tone of red that will surface. A common rose gold alloy composition is 18K (75% gold) mixed with 25% copper while a 50/50 mix of gold (12K) with copper results in what we would call red gold. 3) Green Gold: Green gold, otherwise known as electrum, is a natural forming alloy which combines gold and silver. The greenish color varies depending on the exact mixture but back in the 73% gold, 27% silver 4) Blue Gold: 46% gold, 54% indium. 5) Purple Gold: 80% gold, 20% aluminum. 6) Black Gold: 75% gold, 25% cobalt.
The term gold bullion refers to gold that gets its value from its purity and weight, as opposed to jewelry or antiques where other factors such as aesthetics, colors, design, history, novelty can come into play and affect the gold price. Gold bullion is useful for gold investors as well as gold fabricators.
Gold Bars: When you see gold in movies or pop culture, you’re likely to see it in the form of gold bars. They often take rectangular shapes, although gold bars can take a multitude of shapes as long as they’re refined. Gold bars are classified into two sub-types: cast and minted. Gold bars which are cast and therefore thicker are generally called gold ingots while gold that is stamped and hence thinner/flatter can carry the names gold biscuits or gold wafers. Gold bars come in many different shapes and sizes and can generally be split into 55 categories. Only about 30 types of gold bars are in general circulation around the world with the Good Delivery gold bars being the most popular.
Gold Bullion Coins: It’s often mistaken that gold coins are expensive because they are usually antiques or precious collectors items - this isn’t the case with gold bullion coins. This form of gold works exactly the same way as the metal bars, except their shape are in the form of coins and are usually much smaller. This makes them easier to carry and spend in a nightmare scenario where you may need real gold.
Many different countries produce their own gold coins with national emblems embedded onto them but the most popular ones in the market today include Eagles, Maples, Kruggerands, Pandas, Prittannias, and Sovereigns.
Numismatic Gold Coins: These types of gold coins generally don’t have a fixed weight or purity to it and tend to be old gold coins that are no longer in production. This makes these gold coins collector’s items or antiques and this can usually lead them to have value far above their weight in gold.
Unrefined Gold: Gold in it’s raw/original state is naturally unrefined and can take different forms. Gold nuggets for example are naturally occurring piece of native gold that have quite large sizes and have a purity ranging from 20K-23K. Unrefined gold can also be in the form of gold dust, or other types of gold deposits.
Gold Scrap: Gold scrap refers to any gold item that has more value for the gold inside it, than its worth as an item. Usually broken gold jewelry is a good candidate as well as old ‘things’ lying around the house like a gold plated electronic items or pieces which are no longer used. Many different grades and types of gold scrap exist with names such as Electro Plated Gold, Gold Plate, Gold Wash, Gold Filled, Rolled Gold being thrown around to describe them.