Definitions of Gold Terminology

Updated July 10, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

The term “fineness” defines a gold content in parts per thousand. For example, a gold nugget containing 885 parts of pure gold, 100 parts of silver, and 15 parts of copper would be considered 885-fine.

The word “karat” indicates the proportion of solid gold in an alloy based on a total of 24 parts. Thus, 14-karat (14K) gold indicates a composition of 14 parts of gold and 10 parts of other metals.

The term “gold-filled” is used to describe articles of jewelry made of base metal that are covered on one or more surfaces with a layer of gold alloy. No article having a gold alloy portion of less than one twentieth by weight may be marked “gold-filled.” Articles may be marked “rolled gold plate” provided the proportional fraction and fineness designations are also shown.

Electroplated jewelry items carrying at least 7 millionths of an inch of gold on significant surfaces may be labeled “electroplate.” Plate thicknesses less than this may be marked “gold-flashed” or “gold-washed.”

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