Society & Culture

Gold Terminology

gold-and-moneyWe all know what gold is and most of us own some but many people get confused by the specialist terms used to describe the metal in its various forms. If you are buying gold it important to know what you are looking at. If you have ever been bamboozled by gold terminology, here is a brief explanation of the terms and phrases you need to know:


This is the term used to describe the purity of the gold. Pure gold is 24 carat but is very soft and so not appropriate for most uses like watches and jewellery and is therefore mixed with other metals and alloys. 9 carat gold is 9 parts gold and 15 parts alloy, 18 carat gold is purer being 18 parts gold and only 6 parts alloy.

Gold Leaf

Gold is highly malleable and can be beaten into extremely thin sheets. Just one gram can be beaten into a piece as large as one square metre! Gold leaf is extremely thin gold, usually 22 carat, which is used to gild or cover objects. As an example of how thin gold can be beaten consider the dome of the capitol building in Atlanta, Georgia. Just 500 grams of gold were used to cover the entire area, a piece of gold you could hold in the palm of one hand.

Gold Bullion

Bullion is the term used to describe precious metals in bulk form. Gold is pressed into coins or ingots (bars) which are then a tradable commodity valued by weight and purity.

Gold Nugget

A nugget is a naturally occurring piece of gold. Nuggets can vary dramatically in size with the largest ever found being the Welcome Stranger found in Australia in 1869. It weighed in at a massive 71 kgs which would make it worth over £24 million at today's prices.

Acid Test

It is an old saying but do you know where it comes from? The acid test is a means of determining whether a metal is gold and how pure it is. First a mark is made on the surface of the metal and then aqua fortis (nitric acid) applied. If the mark dissolves the metal is not gold. Aqua regia (nitro-hydrochloric acid) is then applied and if the mark now dissolves the metal is gold. Finer tests with aqua regia determine purity.

Fools Gold

Iron pyrite looks a bit like gold to the amateur and is often mistaken for the precious metal. In reality it is a very different substance and almost without value.

White Gold

This is gold which has been mixed with a white metal, usually nickel, palladium or manganese. Nickel alloys can cause an allergic reaction in some people leaving a rash on the skin and so it is worth knowing if any jewellery you are interested in contains nickel.

Rose Gold

Rose gold is produced by mixing pure gold with copper. The resulting alloy has a distinctive pinky tinge. Rose gold is becoming a feature of watch design once more with many tops brands producing new models using this delicate colouring.

Sally Stacey is a keen blogger who loves her gold. She has been gold prospecting but found nothing to rival the Welcom Stranger!

If you have any questions, please ask below!