Pure gold has the consistency of a paste, so jewellery manufacturers add other metals to it, like copper and silver, in a process known as alloying, to give it a firm shape that can be formed into commercially usable and uneasily broken objects.
You know your gold jewellery is 14k, or 10k, or one of the other many popular karat weights that exist, but what does it all mean? It all has to do with the amount, percentage to be precise, of pure gold content alloyed into jewellery. Karat is a measure of gold fineness. Put simply, a gold karat is 1/24 part, or 4.1667% of the whole, and the karat weight indicates how many parts of gold are in a piece.
Nady Naguib, the former secretary of the Gold Traders Division at the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce (FEDCOC) and secretary of the Association of Gold Manufacturers and Traders, said that alloying is responsible for determining the gold fineness. For example, 24k gold is 100 parts gold or 100%. 16k gold is 16 parts gold to 8 parts of other materials for a pure gold percentage of 67%
He explained to Daily News Egypt that silver and copper are part of the gold industry for two reasons, the first is because they give gold solidity to be formed into various objects that can be traded in the market and be usable for commercial use, as pure gold is difficult to wear. The second reason is to give gold a silver colour. Platinum and silver give gold a whitish look and copper gives it a bit of a yellow or red colour.
Naguib added that copper and silver alloying represents 125 grams in 1kg of 21k gold, and 250 grams in 1kg of 18k gold.
He pointed out that alloying gold with copper only results in a reddish colour, while the yellow colour is produced by alloying gold with two-thirds of an amount of copper equivalent to 83.3 grams in 1kg of the 21k gold and 166.7 grams in 1kg for 18k gold.
Naguib noted that the high prices of copper and silver or the shortage of supply increases the value of gold craftsmanship because they are important elements within the gold industry.
He added that a large amount of gold works in markets are recycled 21k and 18k gold. They are used in creating new products, which reduces alloying copper and silver in gold manufacturing.