What are the finenesses of gold and silver? What is fineness?

The fineness of a precious metal such as gold, silver, platinum, or palladium indicates the content of the given metal in the alloy. The same fineness indicates the content of gold in a product. Most people probably don’t realize that pure gold is a soft, malleable metal. Therefore, other metals – so called ‘admixtures’ – are added to gold to harden it, making it possible to form it into bars, coins, and jewelry. For the sale of standardization, markings were introduced to specify ‘how much gold is in the gold,’ and how much other metal, i.e. admixtures.

Fineness of gold

Fineness is a way to define the gold content of a given item, for example an engagement ring, earrings, or a bracelet, and is expressed either in karats or as a percentage. Usually, a precious metal object is stamped with an inscription. The stamp indicates the type of precious metal and its fineness. In the case of gold, the most common symbols are 9k, 14k, 18k.

The price for a gold product offered by jeweler or precious metals dealer largely depends on the fineness of the gold. Fineness is also used for other precious metals, such as silver and platinum.

Which fineness is the most popular? The most popular gold is 14 karat, from which wedding rings, engagement rings, necklaces and chains are made. The best fineness is undoubtedly 24 karat, because products marked with this fineness, including bullion coins such as the Vienna Philharmonic coin, contain 99.99% pure gold. Many people ask which fineness a wedding ring should have. In the vast majority of cases, wedding rings are made of 14 karat gold, although there are also wedding rings made of better 18 karat gold. It all depends on the preferences of future spouses and their budget for wedding rings.

In case of doubts about the fineness of gold, it is worth consulting a goldsmith or precious metals dealer, as they can check the fineness using a testing liquid.

Karat – with a K – is used to indicate the fineness of gold, where 1 karat is equal to 1/24 of pure gold. On the other hand, carat – with a C – is used to indicate the weight of precious stones. 24karat gold, corresponding to a fineness of 999, is most desirable for investors, whereas the least valuable 8 karat gold corresponds to a fineness of 333.

24 karat corresponds to a fineness of 999
22 karat corresponds to a fineness of 916
18 karat corresponds to a fineness of 750
14 karat corresponds to a fineness of 585
12 karat corresponds to a fineness of 500
9 karat corresponds to a fineness of 375 test
8 karat corresponds to a fineness of 333 test

Fineness of silver

Like gold, pure silver is very soft, and therefore other metals are added to increase its durability. The fineness of silver determines how much silver is in the given alloy. In the interest of standardization, the following finenesses were introduced:

  • fineness of 925, containing 92.5% pure silver

  • fineness of 875, containing 87.5% pure silver

  • fineness of 830, containing 83.0% pure silver

  • fineness of 800, containing 80.0% pure silver

The best silver fineness is, of course, the one that contains the most silver – 925 – and is most often used in jewelry.

The gold and silver fineness confirm the authenticity of jewelry. An engagement ring with a gold fineness of 585 contains 58.5% of gold, with 41.5% accounting for other metals added to increase hardness. Investment coins are usually engraved with the fineness of gold from which they were made. The most popular bullion coins are made of pure 24 karat gold, but there are exceptions to the rule. The popular Krugerrand is minted from 22 karat gold with copper admixtures, giving it its characteristic color.

Sometimes, however, the gold or silver fineness of a product is falsified, meaning that the fineness indicated on the product itself is not correct. Therefore, in case of doubts regarding fineness, it is best to go to the nearest jeweler or precious metals dealer, who can use specialized tools and professional knowledge to determine the fineness of the metal from which the jewelry as well as the approximate value of the product.

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