50 Shades of Gold: The different types of gold

Long gone are the times when you could get gold in its original color only. Today, you can buy it in different qualities, different gold types, and all kinds of shades and colors. White gold and rose gold have been popular choices for a long time already. But have you heard of pink, green, or black gold? The color spectrum is constantly evolving. We will show you how the quality and value of gold are defined, how different shades of gold are achieved, and what the new trends in gold manufacturing are.

Different tones of Yellow Gold

Gold has always been fashionable and a symbol of elegance and prosperity. For thousands of years, it’s been used as a payment method, worn as jewelry, or used to refine objects of all varieties. Usually, precious metals are either gray or whitish, which has always made gold special and outstanding. Because it is quite soft, people mix it with other metals to make it more durable and affordable. That also resulted in slight color changes.

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Common alloys these days are 18k (75% pure gold), 14k (58,5% pure gold) and 10k (41,7% pure gold). The lower the gold content, the paler the color of gold becomes. Pure gold (24k) is almost yellow. In many Asian regions, saturated yellow is very fashionable for decoration and jewelry. The common alloy there is 22k. In western regions, slightly lighter tones are preferred, and 14k is a common choice.

Gold mixed with Copper

Until about 130 years ago, gold wasn’t available in other colors. In the late 19th century, allegedly, the Russian Carl Fabergé first used the elegant rose gold for his famous Fabergé Eggs

The elegant color of rose gold is achieved by adding copper to gold. The more copper, the redder the gold becomes until you get a so-called red gold. A darker version of the currently en-vogue rose gold.

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Like yellow gold, you can get rose and red gold in different qualities. The content of gold is the same as it is for yellow gold. However, where yellow gold alloys mostly contain white and silver-colored metals, rose and red gold contain a large amount of copper and only a small portion of silver.

As there is no standard composition for gold alloys, there is a large variety of shades. That makes distinguishing between red and rose gold sometimes a difficult task. A good rule of thumb is: at least 20% of the non-gold content in an alloy should be white metals to call something rose gold. For 18k rose gold, that can mean 75% gold, 20% copper, and 5% white metals, like, for instance, silver or platinum. For 14k rose gold, it would be 58,5% gold, 33% copper, and 8,5% white metals.


Elegant White Gold

Another popular shade of gold is white gold. Since 1921 gold has been “dyed” white to offer a more affordable alternative to platinum. At first, by adding nickel until achieving the desired color. But because nickel is not a precious metal and about 30% of the world’s population is allergic to it, that quickly changed. Other precious metals like palladium and silver were added instead. However, even today, and despite the high rate of people being allergic to nickel, white gold can legally contain up to 20% nickel. -Unless marked as nickel-free.

If you are amongst the 70% percent that show no reaction to nickel, you have nothing to worry about. But if you are one of the 30%, take that into account when purchasing white gold.

Note: during the past 15 years, the gold price exploded, and gold now has a higher value than platinum.

Today there is a large range of gold alloys

During the past decade, the color range of gold is constantly evolving. There are now unusual and certainly some unexpected colors on the market. Some of the currently known color types of gold are:

Pink Gold

Like red and rose gold, it is a gold-copper alloy. It contains even less copper than rose gold which creates a very soft hue of rose. However, a clear distinction between rose, and pink gold is hard to make and the terms are often interchanged.

Green Gold

Green gold sounds very fancy and very modern. But it is known for 3000 years already. It’s an alloy consisting mainly of gold and silver, which gives the metal a pale green color. People in western Anatolia, where this alloy first occurred, gave this type of gold the name Electrum. Today you can buy gold in dark green color as well. However, be aware that often cadmium is used to achieve vibrant greens. Cadmium is highly toxic and can be absorbed by your body when wearing green jewelry close to your body.

Black Gold

For Black Gold, there are different ways to achieve the dark color. The simplest option is plating a yellow gold base with black rhodium or ruthenium. The plating, however, can wear off. And due to the extreme color difference of yellow and black, every tiny scratch will be visible. Not every jeweler will be able to re-plate your black gold pieces as it may not be their field of expertise, plus they wouldn’t have the necessary tools and materials.

A better way to make gold turn black is by adding black metals like cobalt. Or to make use of a process called patination. You apply sulfur or oxygen-containing compounds, and the chemical reaction causes gold to turn black. If this sounds familiar: yep, that’s exactly what jewelry lovers usually want to avoid at all cost to keep their pieces shiny and gleaming.

More recently, a type of laser treatment was invented to turn gold black. This method produces Black Gold of the highest quality standard but doesn’t come cheap. That’s why it usually isn’t used for manufacturing jewelry.

Grey Gold

The color of grey gold reminds a little of zinc or stainless steel. It is an alloy usually made from gold and palladium. As the color doesn’t stand out like the others, but you still have to pay a high price for it, you might want to consider spending your money on something else instead. - Just our personal opinion, of course.

Blue Gold and Purple Gold

Now we are getting extra fancy. Blue and Purple Gold look very special, and jewelry in one of these two colors is a guaranteed eye-catcher. Unlike the other types of gold, they are an intermetallic compound rather than an alloy. Meaning, these gold types are not achieved by melting and mixing the components. Instead, they are the result of a chemical reaction. And leaving the chemical stuff aside, the bottom line is: both, Blue and Purple Gold are highly brittle and can crack easily. That’s why jewelry made of these gold tones is super rare and needs to be handled and worn cautiously and with care.

Also, if you come across Blue or Purple Gold Jewelry with rich and deep colors, they most likely got a coating to make the colors more brilliant.

Most of the above alloys and compounds are quite exceptional and have not reached great recognition, yet. But if you are the experimental type and want something super exclusive and unique with top-quality, this is the thing.


All shades of color, except for the original golden types and Electrum (yellow with a green hue), do not occur naturally. The different colors are achieved by adding other metals and substances to yellow gold. Each of these metals and components has its own characteristics that you should consider before buying gold jewelry in a fancy color.

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