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About 50% of the gold mined worldwide is used in the jewellery industry, which is also the largest sector where gold is used. But when did gold become a jewellery material, and for what reasons do people still embellish themselves with gold today?
Gold was worn by both men and women
To understand why gold began to adorn people, it is necessary to think again about the properties of this unique metal. When seashells, animal bones, bird’s eggshells, stone and wood, which had previously been used as jewellery by humans, tended to decay rapidly, the special properties of gold were the first to fascinate the ancient Egyptians, who used gold as jewellery as early as 5000 BC and the Sumerians who used gold as early as 3000 BC. But why gold anyway?
Gold was used as jewellery material, of course, because it caught the eye especially well and the shine of the gold necklace or crown could be seen from far away. As gold is very easy to process compared to other metals and does not decompose or perish, this fact only gave gold its power to gain popularity. In addition to people using it, gold was used to decorate tombs, thrones and the homes of heads of state. Gold quickly became a symbol of strength and power, worn by both men and women.
But when did love come? Even before the ring began to symbolize love, it was a sign of ownership or submission. According to ancient Greek myth, the first ring was made by Zeus, who chained Prometheus to the boulder. Hercules released Prometheus and as a concession, Zeus ordered that Prometheus wear upon his finger a link of his chain into which a piece of the rock was set, thereby ensuring that Prometheus would ever carry the weight of his punishment.
However, the first known wedding rings date from around 2500 BC. When they were originally made of reed, stone or leather, gradually the material chosen began to signal the great feelings of the giver, but also wealth. Thus, gold rings were a highly valued commodity among lovers.
Is a gold ring still made from gold?
Anyone who has been in contact with gold jewellery before is probably well aware that gold jewellery worn on a daily basis is not usually made of so-called “pure gold”. There is a simple reason for this: gold with 999 samples, or 99.9%, is too soft for everyday jewellery, so it would not retain its shape and would quickly become unusable.
That is why we often find, for example, 375 samples or 9-carats, 585 samples or 14-carats of gold and 750 gold samples of gold jewellery on the fingers of married couples. Other metals are used in the manufacture of rings to increase the durability and longevity of the jewellery.
However, changing the gold purity is also done to give the jewellery the right colour: if white gold is mixed with palladium, nickel or silver, red or pink gold will get its colour from copper. The redder the ring, the more copper it contains.