Whether in ancient Greece or in China, in Peru or India, gold has not only been appreciated due to its beauty and value, but also because of its warmth, sensuality and its spiritual wealth. In addition to its fascinating color and natural appearance, these are the most important characteristics that the precious metal gold and the sun have in common.
- The most important characteristic of Orlando Orlandini’s collections is the luminosity obtained by the meticulous labor of hand forming, giving the gold a gemlike quality, capturing and reflecting light from its many small surfaces. It won the title “Best Gold Design” at the Couture-Design Award 2001
Gold has been inseparably linked with the sun throughout history. Often described as sunshine you can touch, gold has been revered in almost every culture as the very essence of the sun. Today our need for the sun’s warmth is reflected in our desire for the sensual glow of gold. Beautiful, desirable and incorruptible it has been a constant source of inspiration for countless civilizations, a continuous thread connecting worlds to worlds and generations to generations. Gold connects us to our emotions. The relevance of gold in our lives goes beyond fashion, adornment or purely material value to provoke in us profound and powerful emotions such as passion and joy. Often paradoxical, sometimes extreme, our emotions are what make us feel alive. All of these aspects of gold inspire designers throughout the world. They provide the context for the creative work by goldsmiths and support them in developing convincing and innovative jewelry using the precious metal.
From the first discoveries of gold in ancient times, its beauty and the ease with which it could be worked inspired craftsmen to create it into ornaments, not just for adornment, but as symbols of wealth and power. The skills of the goldsmith from ancient Egypt to Benvenuto Cellini or Carl Faberge still amaze us.
Gold is made up of just one stable isotope and is therefore one of the 21 pure elements. The heavy metal is as soft as tin and possesses a remarkable color. In general, it is not attacked by acids; in nature, gold is found as a pure mineral. It has a saturated, yellow color.
Deposits: The deposits are spread across the entire globe; today, around 40 percent of the mined gold comes from the United States, South Africa and Australia. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the global gold mine production in 2004 was 79 million ounces (2,240 tons). It is now even profitable to mine rock that only contains one gram of gold per ton.
- Gold finds a natural use in the jewelry industry, which draws it on the make rings, chains, bracelets and other jewelry. The precious metal contents are certified by the hallmark.
- Gold serves as an International currency in the form of gold coin and gold bars.
- In dentistry, it is used for fillings or dentures due to its resistance to corrosion and its aesthetic qualities.
- The electronics industry also uses gold due to the reliability of its properties, resistance to corrosion and easy processing: For example, connecting wires between chips and the housing legs are made of highly refined, fine gold, whereby one gram, for example, of the precious metal can easily be stretched to form a wire with a length of over three kilometers.
- Gold foil, also known as gold leaf, has been used since antiquity. Manufactured using alloys with high gold contents, it is rolled and beaten until it is thinner than the wavelength of visible light. It is used to lend the appearance of genuine gold to non-metallic objects, e.g. picture frames, books (gilt edges), furniture, figures, architectural elements, stucco and icons, etc. One gram of gold can be used to cover a surface space of half a square meter.
- In the field of food, it is used in the form of gold leaf or gold leaf flakes as a food colorant E 175 in order to gold food, for example as a coating for confectionery and to decorate pralines. Metallic gold is considered non-toxic.
- Some gold salts are used as healing in rheumatism therapy. Gold injections used to be administered to fight rheumatism; but in recent times, less expensive medicaments have replaced treatment with gold.
Alloys: The proportion of gold in jewelry is measured on the karat scale. The word karat comes from the carob seed, which was originally used to balance scales in Oriental bazaars. Pure gold is designated 24 karat, which compares with the “fineness” by which bar gold is defined. Additions of copper lend gold a pink or reddish appearance, lower the melting temperatures and also make it harder, stronger and easier to polish significantly. Rising silver contents change the color of the pure gold, ranging from light yellow to light green and finally white; the melting temperature and the hardness barely change in this process. Conversely, most metals, also the known platinum metals, mercury and the iron metals as additives lead, as their quantities rise, to dilution of color in the form of a dirty yellow-gray to gray-white alloy. In addition, they contribute to a significantly higher hardness and strength.
The most widely used alloys for jewelry in Europe are 18 and 14 karat, although 9 karat is popular in Britain. Portugal has a unique designation of 19.2 karats. In the United States 14 karat predominates, with some 10 karat. In the Middle East, India and South East Asia, jewelry is traditionally 22 karat (sometimes even 23 karat). In China, Hong Kong and some other parts of Asia, “chuk kam” or pure gold jewelry of 990 fineness (almost 24 karat) is popular.
Finishes: Various textures are used by designers in order to add intrigue and enhance the desire of the piece:
- Polished gold: a smooth finish – sleek or dazzling, classic or contemporary
- Satin finish: soft, feminine, refined
- Matte finish: modern, currently high-fashion
- Hammered gold: small indentations offer a lively, extroverted, attention-getting look
- Other textures: diamond-cut facets, diamond-laser cuts and filigree add other dimensions to gold
Although these days gold is in danger of becoming a run of the mill mass product, there is still a wealth of impressive work by contemporary designers who approach the precious metal in an equally prudent and experimental manner. Numerous design competitions for gold jewelry are held each year round the world. The global gold company AngloGold Ashanti for example believes that promoting excellence in the design of gold jewelry is an important element in ensuring the continuing attractiveness and appeal of the metal among consumers. Their design competition “AuDITIONS” is sponsored in different parts of the world and is seen as an effective way of encouraging professional and amateur jewelers to work in high karat gold, experiment with new styles and techniques and improve the design and styling of gold jewelry. The award-winning items serve to demonstrate not just the beauty of gold, but new and exciting designs come to the attention of trendsetters and fashion leaders who set and drive fashion trends.
www.gold.org (World Gold Council)
www.gold-virtuosi.com (Competition Gold Virtuosi = World Gold Council + Vicenza Fair)
www.zv-gold.com (Benvenuto Cellini Competition)
www.kiltamuseo.fi (the world’s only international museum that focuses on the past and present of gold panning culture is found in Tankavaara, Finland. The 30th Gold Panning World Championships will be organized in Tankavaara, Northern Finland, in August 2006.)