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Gold - A unique metal
In its pure form, gold is a shiny yellow metal and is relatively inactive chemically. The chemical symbol for gold, Au, is derived from its Latin name, aurum. With a specific gravity of 19.4, it is also one of the heaviest of the common metals - more than twice as heavy as silver or lead. Because gold is chemically inert, it resists oxidation and other changes which diminish the brilliance of other metals.
The story of gold
Countless ancient artifacts attest to gold's popularity and versatility. The most malleable and ductile of all metals, gold has invited the highest skills of artisans and craftsmen all through the ages. For thousands of years, gold has been formed into articles of ornamentation, into religious icons and talismans, and, of course, shaped and formed into currency.
As a symbol of beauty, nobility and constancy, gold has been cherished and even worshiped. Wars have been fought and nations conquered for gold. It is because of its exceptionally high value that gold, in all its forms; from the very beginning has required accountability, a system of weights and a standardisation of purity. It is not surprising that the need to assay and account for gold led to the invention of the first scales and balances.
The karat system
In the karat system, pure gold is expressed as "24 karats fine" (24K). (Pure gold in commercial practice is 99.95 to fine, but is nominally considered 100%.) The gold content of any gold article depends on the proportion of pure gold it contains.
The most popular types that are used in jewellery in the United States are:
- 24 K or 100% gold (99.95 %)
- 18 K 18/24ths or 75% gold
- 14 K 14/24ths or 58.33% gold
- 10 K 10/24ths or 41.67% gold
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