Fineness is another way of expressing the precious metal content of gold jewellery, and represents the purity in parts per thousand. When stamped on jewellery, usually this is stated without the decimal point.
This chart shows some examples of the composition of various caratages of gold.
|Caratage||Gold(Au)||Silver (Ag)||Copper (Cu)||Zinc (Zn)||Palladium (Pd)|
|White Gold||18k||75%||25% (or Pt)|
The alloying metal compositions above are typical of those used by the jewellery industry to arrive at the colour/caratage combinations shown, but these are not the only ways to arrive at these combinations.
White gold compositions listed here are nickel free. Nickel-containing white gold alloys form a small/very small percentage of white gold alloys and generally contain other base metals such as copper and zinc.
The following are the common standards of fineness that are used:
.375 = 9 carat (England and Canada)
.417 = 10 carat
.583 (.585) = 14 carat
.750 = 18 carat
.833 = 20 carat (Asia)
.999 (1000) = 24 carat pure gold
Strictly speaking, 14 carat should be 583 (14/24 = .583333), but most manufacturers have adopted the European practice of making 14 carat gold slightly over 14 carat. Thus, the fineness mark is 585 in most 14 carat gold jewellery.
Similarly, 24 carat should be 1.0 (24/24 = 1.00). However, in practice, there is likely to be a very slight impurity in any gold, and it can only be refined to a fineness level of 999.9 parts per thousand. This is stated as 999.9.
Accepted tolerances on purity vary from market to market. In China, Chuk Kam (which is Cantonese for ‘pure gold’ or literally ‘full gold’) still comprises the majority of sales and is defined as 99.0 per cent minimum gold, with a 1.0 per cent negative tolerance allowed.