For centuries, gold has been a sign of wealth and status. Its beauty has seen it used to make jewelry, works of art and to decorate churches, temples and mosques.
Traditional gold is yellow, but you may also have heard of rose gold. So what is rose gold? What are its pros and cons? And should you consider it for your jewelry?
Read on, as we take you on a tour of everything you need to know about rose gold. And when we’ve finished, you’ll have all the information you need on this beautiful and precious metal.
Types of gold
Although we’re used to thinking of gold as yellow, even using “golden” to describe a particular shade, you can find gold in other colors too. Both white and rose gold are mixed with other metals to give them a different appearance. And sometimes all three types of gold are used in the same jewelry.
So does mixing gold with other metals mean that it isn’t “real” gold? The short answer is no. All types of gold will need to be mixed with other metals in order to be used for jewelry. That’s because gold alone is too soft to be worked successfully. And the resulting objects will be too easily bent or broken.
To fix this, gold is mixed with other metals like silver, zinc and nickel. Different metals will alter the color of the gold in different ways.
You might be wondering how much gold there has to be in a piece of metal for it to count as real gold. That’s where the karat system comes in.
The karat rating tells you how many parts of pure gold there are to every 24 parts of the metal. So a piece of jewelry made of 10 karat gold will have 10 parts of gold to every 24. In other words, it will consist of 41.7 percent gold.
In the United States, that is the minimum percentage for gold to be classified as “real”. But this is different in different countries. In the United Kingdom, the minimum standard is 9 karats, and in Germany it’s 8 karats.
Modern gold jewelry will carry a number printed on it, which will tell you its purity. This is sometimes in the form of three digits, telling you how many parts per 1,000 are pure gold. More often, you’ll find the karat rating. In the US, this is usually 10, 14, 18, or 22, followed by a “K”.
What is rose gold made of?
Rose gold is mixed with copper and sometimes smaller amounts of other metals like silver and zinc. It’s the copper that gives it its distinctive rosy hue.
The different metals used in rose gold also mean that the color varies from piece to piece. Rose gold with a higher proportion of copper will have a redder shade. That which contains more gold, silver or zinc will have a cooler pink tone.
As with other gold colors, rose gold is available in different karat ratings. 22-karat rose gold has the highest proportion of pure gold, at almost 92 percent. The rest of the metal is composed of copper. This high purity rose gold is known as “crown gold”.
But the downside of such high purity is that the metal is soft and bends very easily. For that reason, it’s rarely used to make jewelry. (It was first produced to make British coins known as crowns, which is where it gets its name.)
Rose gold jewelry is more commonly available in 9, 10, 14 and 18 karats. You may find 15-karat rose gold in pieces dating from the Victorian period.
Because the proportion of pure gold increases as the karat rating rises, the color changes too. You’ll usually find that rose gold with a higher karat rating has a paler hue than 9 or 10-karat examples.
The history of rose gold
The first use of rose gold came early in the nineteenth century, in Imperial Russia. The renowned jeweler, Carl Fabergé, used a mixture of gold and copper in his Fabergé eggs.
Its origins meant that it was first known as “Russian gold”. The name changed to “rose gold” as it became popular around the world.
The 1920s saw rose gold become increasingly desirable. It was a decade full of artistic and cultural innovation. Stylish women of the time wanted their jewelry to look fresh and different. Rose gold was a natural choice, and jewelers like Cartier made many of their designs in the metal.
That era of prosperity came to an end with the Wall Street Crash of 1929. And fashions too began to change, with Art Deco coming to prominence.
The use of geometric lines and bold black and white colorways saw white metal, particularly platinum, displace rose gold as the preferred choice of fashionistas.
But the rise of platinum was halted by the start of the Second World War. Unlike gold, platinum was in demand for military uses. As a result, many countries restricted its use for other purposes and gold, once more, came into the ascendancy for jewelry.
Today, rose gold is fashionable as ever. In 2012, rose gold creations began featuring prominently in jewelry stores. It soon hit the catwalk, with designers like Roberto Cavalli and Jimmy Choo showing accessories in rose gold.
In 2015, Apple launched its iPhone 6S in a rose gold colorway. The new shade was an immediate hit, accounting for over 40 percent of pre-orders.
The trend for copper interiors helped keep rose gold trendy. And it continues to be popular, long after most other trends would have faded away.
The reason for its longevity, according to some commentators, is social media. Rose gold photographs well, making rose gold accessories a great pick for the Instagram generation. And rose gold is even considered the perfect choice of hair color for the fashion-forward.
All this makes rose gold a stylish, as well as a romantic choice, for a special piece of jewelry.
Rose gold and jewelry Maintenance
Aside from its beauty, rose gold doesn’t tarnish. That makes it a low-maintenance option for jewelry. You can buy specialist cleaners to keep it looking great. But it’s just as effective (and less expensive) to use warm water and a little dishwashing liquid.
Simply immerse your jewelry in soapy water for up to 30 minutes. For grimier jewelry, a dash of soda water will help too. The bubbles will help lift the dirt from the surface of the metal.
When the time’s up, remove your jewelry and brush it gently with a soft-bristled brush. A clean toothbrush is ideal, but make sure the bristles aren’t too firm. Then pat it dry with a lint-free cloth, or leave it on top of the cloth to air dry. (The cloth will prevent scratches from a hard surface.)
There is, however, one thing to watch out for before choosing rose gold for jewelry. Because it contains copper, it can cause irritation to people with very sensitive skin. The risk can be minimized by choosing rose gold with high gold content, at least 18-karat. But if your skin is sensitive to metals, it won’t be the best choice.
Rose gold engagement and wedding rings
It’s a little different from standard yellow gold jewelry, and it looks a wonderful set with diamonds. But it’s worth remembering that the warm shade of the metal will also affect the appearance of the diamond.
You can, of course, choose a near-colorless stone for your rose gold ring if you wish. That will, however, be expensive. And the rose gold will give it a warmer appearance than it would have against white gold or platinum.
This gives you the option of choosing a diamond lower down the color scale. Diamonds of I, J, K or even L color ratings can complement rose gold beautifully. Just make sure that the color tint of the stone is brown rather than yellow.
And because color-tinted diamonds are less expensive, you can spend the extra money on a larger or clearer stone instead.
Alternatively, choose a halo setting if you want your main diamond to be colorless. The smaller stones around the outside will prevent the central diamond from taking on the rosy shade of gold.
Colored gemstones can also work well with rose gold. Consider amethysts, pink sapphires, or opals. Think twice, though, before choosing bolder colors and cooler shades. Stones like deep blue sapphires, citrines, emeralds, and rubies can clash with the warmth of the gold.
One final thing to bear in mind is that the choice of metal for your engagement ring will also affect your wedding ring. They will usually be worn together, so you’ll want metals that complement each other.
An engagement ring and wedding ring in rose gold will look great together. Just remember that if the gold is different purities, the shade can differ slightly. Check how the wedding ring will look next to the engagement ring before you make your final choice.
If you prefer contrast, white metals will work better against rose gold than yellow gold will. The copper content of rose gold, though, means that it’s a harder metal than white. If you want to pair rose gold and white gold rings, be prepared for your white gold ring to need regular replating.
Distinguishing real from fake rose gold
As a desirable and precious metal, rose gold has its imitators. So how can you tell if you’re getting the real thing?
A good starting point is to source your jewelry from a reputable dealer. Look for firms that have a track record of customer satisfaction.
Next, take a good look at the item you’re thinking of buying. While antique pieces may be unmarked, modern rose gold should carry hallmarks.
Exactly what these look like will depend on the country in which the item was made. But as a minimum, there should be an indication of the purity of the gold. This will take the form of either a three-digit number or karat rating, i.e. a number followed by “K” or “ct”.
Of course, a determined forger can also forge a hallmark! One useful check is to compare the karat rating marked on the gold with its color. Remember, a higher purity rose gold ring will contain less copper, giving it a pinkish, rather than a red hue.
If a ring marked “18K” has a deeper, ruddier color, it’s unlikely to be what the mark is claiming. It might be rose gold of a lower purity. Or it might be something else entirely – a base metal coated in copper, for example.
Signs of discoloration
Check too for any signs of discoloration, particularly around the edges of the jewelry. These are the areas that will experience most wear, so any plating will rub away here first. If you can see signs of another metal underneath, your ring isn’t solid rose gold.
Neither gold nor copper are magnetic, so a magnet test is also a good option. It’s a good idea to invest in a strong neodymium magnet for this. You can pick one up at your local hardware store, and they’re not expensive. If your object sticks to the magnet, it isn’t rose gold.
Just remember, though, that if it doesn’t stick to the magnet, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the real thing. A number of other metals could be in play. Brass, stainless steel, and aluminum, for example, aren’t magnetic either.
If you want to be certain your jewelry is real rose gold, take it to a reputable jeweler. They will be able to get it tested for you.
Rose gold is forever
That brings us to the end of our round-up of everything you need to know about rose gold! This beautiful and precious metal is romantic and elegant. It looks wonderful against any skin tone. And it’s easy to keep looking great.
Just take care if you have a skin allergy, as the copper content can cause irritation. 18 or 22-karat rose gold are the best bets, as these contain the highest proportions of pure gold.