amazing history of 24crt gold

24ct gold, the amazing history

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    As the daughter of a jeweler, I am afflicted with the “magpie virus.” My eyes are always drawn to beautiful and usually very expensive things, with my favorite… jewelry. Especially if they sparkle or have a beautiful shape. It’s just in my DNA.

    When I was 2 or 3 years old, both my parents worked in our jewelry store, and if there was no babysitter available, I was “parked” in the workshop, where workmen were busy making beautiful jewelry for the store. And I was given a small piece of gold to keep me occupied.

    Even at that age, that precious yellow metal fascinated me. The beautiful color and shine, are amazing. And if you held the bar in the sun, you got beautiful sparkles on the wall. Yes, that could keep me busy for hours!


    the story of El Dorado

    In primary school, the teacher once told us a great story about El Dorado, the lost city of gold. I was hanging on the teacher’s lips. A city of gold, which people have been searching for centuries and have never found. Very exciting.

    The legend of El Dorado arose from the stories of the Muisca tribe, who lived in Colombia between 1300 BC and 500 BC. The story went that every time a new king was installed, he was taken to Lake Guatavita, stripped naked, and covered with gold dust.

    Then he was put on a raft, and his helpers threw large quantities of the yellow bars and precious stones into the lake. This was offered to the god of the Muisca tribe. The “El Dorado” according to the legend of the tribe El Dorado was not a city, but the king himself, the gold-drenched king.

    Statue made by the Muisca tribe
    Statue made by the Muisca tribe
    Double amulet depicting the Egyptian gods Horus and Anubis. Fenician/Malta

    In any case, the term “El Dorado” became synonymous with a lost city packed with this precious metal or a place where you could get rich quickly. And of course, many adventurers went in search of this place.

    The explorers Lazaro Fonte and Hernan Perez de Quesada thought they had found the city in 1545, at Lake Guatavita, because they found some gold on the shore of that lake. They tried to drain the lake for 3 months, but in vain… no treasure. Others later tried the same thing but without success. There was a hoard in that lake estimated at $300 million, so it was worth dredging.

    Finally, the government of Colombia declared the area around the lake a protected area in 1965, and the dredging stopped. However, the search for El Dorado continues.

    Historical significance in the economy

    This precious metal not only causes greed in a 3-year-old child, adventurers, or explorers trying to find an El Dorado in South America. That yellow stuff is also at the basis of the economy of many people and has been for a very long time. Having or not having gold determines prosperity and can make or break an economy.

    There are plenty of examples of this!


    The kingdom of Mali (West Africa) gained control over several large gold mines in Burkina Faso and Ghana between 1240 and 1645 AD. That is to say, the Malians did not mine it there but levied large amounts as tax in those areas.

    One of the most important kings was Mansa Musa I (1312-1337 AD), who had converted to Islam. In 1324, he decided he wanted to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca. That the purpose of a pilgrimage was to travel in simplicity, Mansa Musa didn’t quite understand.

    Egyptian signet ring of a Pharaoh
    Slave bracelet

    He traveled with 100 camels carrying 135 kg/300 pounds of gold on their backs, and there were still 500 slaves, each carrying a yellow bar weighing 2.7 kg. “Travel light” was not an option.

    And of course, Mansa Musa wanted to show the Sultan of Egypt that he was not a backward Malian, but a wealthy king. He gave the Sultan 50,000 gold coins as a gift, and his entourage spent so much money that the value of the Egyptian (gold coin) money depreciated by 20%. It took 12 years to correct that.

    Of course, that story went around the world, and everyone wanted to get their hands on those gold mines. It was also said that the city where the king lived was paved with the yellow precious metal (a kind of El Dorado), and that city was Timbuktu. From my observation in 2003, I know that Timbuktu is paved with sand, desert sand, and that there is no gold to be seen.


    Let’s go back in time to the Romans. The Roman Empire was powerful and rich for centuries. They wanted to expand their wealth by conquering territories, especially those with precious metals like gold in the ground.

    Gold was used for larger denominations of coins, for jewelry, and even for clothing. The story goes that in 49 AD, Agrippina, the wife of Emperor Claudius, wore a tunic woven with gold threads. Of course, it was intended to show the outside world that you were wealthy. That could also be done with a golden statue in your garden.

    In Rome, it was considered the metal of the gods and was said to be directly descended from the sun. It was mainly used to make jewelry, such as the “bulla,” an amulet worn by younger boys as a talisman to ward off bad energy. And golden “phallus” rings were believed to bring good luck.

    A serpent or snake bracelet 300-200 BC with a garnet.
    Bulla amulet 100-200 AD for boys.
    Bulla amulet 100-200 AD for boys.

    While men only wore rings, women’s preferences were broader, such as wearing “snake” bracelets. A woman had to wear at least 7 gold bracelets.

    Gold also played an important role in the Roman economy. The yellow coin was the standard until around the 3rd century AD. The portrait of the emperor was on every coin, and these coins were spread all over Western and Southern Europe.

    Around the 3rd century, the Roman Empire had limited access to gold mines, which were also becoming depleted. To ensure that gold for making jewelry remained available, they quickly replaced gold coins with silver coins.

    Not everyone thought this was a good idea, including in the Netherlands (and the rest of the Roman Empire), where gold coins were held back to make pendants or to repair gold jewelry, as seen in the Wieuwerd gold treasure (Friesland) from the 7th century.

    This shows that gold was an important element for the economy, and when it was no longer available, major problems arose.

    Pendants made of Roman coins, Hoard of Wieuwerd 7th century the Netherlands.
    Oldest known gold coins from Cartagena. Malta, 700-218 BC

    From South America to Spain

    Another example of the problems caused by having, or rather, the availability of a (too) large amount of gold in the economy, was the Age of Exploration.

    Everyone has learned in school that in 1492, the Spanish king commissioned Columbus to discover new lands (in honor and glory of the Spanish queen, Isabella of Castile) and find new markets for Spanish products to stimulate the economy.

    The plan was for Columbus to take over the new land and return with products that Spain could use, and for which Spanish products could be traded. Columbus returned with large quantities of precious stones, silver, and gold!

    The Spanish rulers were very pleased with the result and sent more ships to transport more gold to Spain. However… that did not turn out so well.

    The basis of the Spanish monetary system and therefore the Spanish economy was the gold coin, which had a certain value related to the amount of this precious metal in the Spanish vaults. That value decreased because the amount was greatly increased with the arrival of American gold.

    The result was high inflation, and rising food prices, also caused by strong population growth. Of course, the higher classes did not suffer so much, as they had almost unlimited access to a new supply of gold. But the poor classes became impoverished.

    The Pope in Rome

    The Pope in Rome was also not so happy with the large influx of American gold. His money also became less valuable, and he did not have access to the increasingly growing gold supply. But he had a brilliant idea.

    He instructed his smartest monks (the only people who had received an education at that time) to make gold. With a little chemical knowledge, he thought it should be possible.

    The monks did their best, but the only result was the discovery of so-called ‘fool’s gold’, glass with copper mixed in, which can be obtained in the colors orange, blue, and transparent.

    Why use this yellow metal for making coins?

    Gold, and also silver, were initially used mainly for making coins because they were durable, couldn’t rust, and could have stamps with the head of a ruler put on them.

    When the precious metals became less available, the gold in the coins was mixed with other metals or the coins were secretly made smaller and lighter. The gold coin was no longer trusted in this way, except when it was an old coin that still represented the ‘old’ value.

    Mixing yellow gold with other metals also led to other possibilities for making jewelry, such as white gold and rose gold, which will be discussed in the next part of this blog.

    A guarantee

    Every country has (or should have) a certain percentage of the value of all the money of that country in yellow gold bars in the bank. In this way, everyone knows that money has a certain value and everybody accepts that money. Although it is only a piece of paper.

    This system is invented by the Medici, a very very rich family from Florence, They started a bank in Italy in the late Middle Ages. And published papers with a certain value and they were the back-ups. And the guarantee that the value of this paper was paid in yellow gold whenever the owner of that paper asked for it. Very practical for salesmen, so they don’t have to carry all that heavy metal around.

    Another advantage was that the precious metal coins differed in weight and size every time an emperor or other ruler needed cash fast. People did not trust the coins anymore. The compound of the coins got less and less gold, and people cut the edges of the coins to get the precious metal. This all made paper money more popular than precious metal coins.

    Gold in your safe

    I cannot imagine that you want to have a bar of pure yellow gold in your safe, just to be sure that your money is safe. You can look at it and pay a fortune to prevent someone from stealing it from you. The good thing is that this metal not only retains its value (normally spoken, that is) but the value increases since there are not so many gold mines anymore.

    Haven’t you seen all those jewelry shops that advertise with ‘Bring your old gold and I will give you the best price’? That is a way to gain this metal and recycle it into new pieces of jewelry. The bad thing is that ‘new’ gold will get more expensive.


    Nowadays rich people have stocks. But when a trade war is going on or the rich and famous don’t trust the value of their own money anymore they buy diamonds and gold. At the moment a lot of people sell their stocks and buy gold. Just now golden jewelry is getting more and more popular.

    So the amount of pure 24-carat gold in your piece of jewelry determines the value of that jewel.

    Gold used in jewelry

    There is a lot of difference between white, yellow, and rose gold. And what about the vermeil and gold-filled items? It’s not only the color and the value but also the amount of gold in your piece of jewelry. Since this precious metal is becoming more and more popular it is good to know what is the difference between all the different precious metals. And to find out what choices you have when you want to purchase a yellow gold necklace or white gold earrings.

    yellow gold line
    yellow gold line

    Italian women are ‘into the yellow gold’!

    At the moment I am in Italy and when you sit on a terrace watching people going by (a favorite hobby of mine) you notice that Italian women wear a lot of yellow gold. And they look great with them.

    But the thing is that the color of the Italian gold is quite different than what I see at home (in the Netherlands). That is understandable because in the Netherlands the Italian or 8-carat gold is not regarded as such in my country. Even the 14-carat variety has not had enough precious metal in it to call it gold. It is called ‘doublé’.

    Italian gold jewelry
    Italian gold jewelry
    22 ct. gold earrings depicting female heads, 100 BC-100 AD

    Add another metal to yellow or white gold!

    Gold itself is too soft to work with. So goldsmiths add another metal to it and depending on the extra metal the color changes into yellow, white, or rose gold. When you have a look at 18-carat gold, you know that they used 75% gold and 25%, copper.

    Copper is a reddish material, so the more copper is added to it the redder the gold becomes. The red variety contains 75% gold and 25% copper, the rose version contains 75% gold, 22.5% copper, and 2.5% silver, and the pink version has 75% gold, 20% copper, and 5% silver. That is how the colors in gold are made.

    Rose gold necklace with rhinestones, owned by the Romanov family.
    Rose gold necklace with rhinestones, owned by the Romanov family.
    Golden brooch with opal and pearl, depicting a lady, made by Maison Vever.
    Golden brooch with opal and pearl, depicting a lady, made by Maison Vever.

    But there are more colors.

    You don’t only have yellow or red, there is also white gold. That is, there is gold that is mixed with palladium or nickel to get the white color. 18 Carat of white gold contains 75% gold, 10% palladium, 10% nickel, and 5% zinc. 14 Carat white gold has 59% gold, 25,5% copper, 12,3% nickel, and 3,2% zinc. To get that extra beautiful white glance on white gold they plate it with rhodium, which is a very rare metal and about 8 times more expensive than gold.

    Gold brooch depicting a peacock, made of opal, gold, and enamel by Goerge Hunt.
    Gold brooch depicting a peacock, made of opal, gold, and enamel by Goerge Hunt.
    Golden fibula (pin or brooch), made in the filigree technique from 500 BC, with a ruby in the center.
    Golden fibula (pin or brooch), made in the filigree technique from 500 BC, with a ruby in the center.

    What is gold-filled or vermeil?

    As mentioned above the material yellow gold is very expensive and people cannot or will not pay for a solid yellow gold piece of jewelry. If and still want a golden jewel, they mostly choose for vermeil of gold-filled jewelry. What is this?


    Vermeil is 925 silver layered with a thin coating of yellow gold. The standard plating is about 2 millionths of an inch of yellow gold, but a vermeil coating is much more than that: it is 50 times more, so 100 millionths of an inch of yellow gold. Vermeil has the same shine and glance as 14-carat yellow gold and it does not wear down easily. You can clean it with a soft cloth but don’t use chemicals.

    Gold filled

    This is even better than vermeil. The base is silver or another metal and this material is plated by a minimum of 1/20th of the total weight of the piece of jewelry. And with yellow gold filling, they use also 14 or 18-carat yellow gold. The amount of yellow gold used is regulated by the government. Gold-filled looks the same as 18-carat yellow gold, although it is not solid gold.

    The conclusion

    So when you want to buy a piece of yellow gold jewelry you know it will keep its value, And you have a choice in such a lot of types of this precious metal that you will find one piece that you love and can afford!

    In the meantime, I am looking in the windows of the jeweler shops here in Italy. Amazed by the great designs, quality, and choice of pieces of jewelry they offer. Probably I look like a magpie, but I am happy to look at all these gorgeous pieces. I’ll bet you want to have something too.

    Magpie or not, I am sure every woman, including you, wants to look stunning. And if you are a bit like me now and then, or maybe more than now and then, you have problems with choosing the right piece of jewelry that matches your outfit. What piece of jewelry accentuates your beautiful eyes best? Or how to cover up my large hips. What necklace enlightens my face? There are so many questions to ask, but you need the answers to look fabulous, don’t you?

    You are a lucky lady! FlorenceJewelshop published a completely new PDF with all the answers you need to accentuate your best features with the right pieces of jewelry. It is free of charge. Just let me know where I can send it to.

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    Hug, Florence of FlorenceJewelshop

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