I have vivid memories of when I was 6 years old and would walk hand in hand with my grandmother in the small ally ways of the Mubarakiya Market early in the morning on a mission to sell some old pieces of gold jewelry she has. We would enter several shops before she can make the decision for it all depended on how close to the gold market price are they willing to buy.
I came to understand how every day the price of gold would rise or fall and why are we buying jewelry that costs more per gram than pure gold as the price per gram for manufacturing is negotiated, I enjoyed observing the process and memorizing the gold price each day we went and comparing it with her to the earlier times we went.
In the late 80’s and early 90’s in the G.C.C., women were mostly interested in 22K and 21K gold jewelry that was sometimes adorned with pearls and precious stones, diamond jewelry was not very sought after and was worn in weddings and bridal sets. Later in the 90’s and 2000’s diamonds were becoming more popular and 18K gold and White Gold was growing in popularity. Rose Gold however came later in the 2000’s as brands like Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels became more popular amongst the younger women.
White Gold and 18K Gold was referred to as “Italian Gold”, because as the name implies, that is where it was imported from before the technology to manufacture it locally was introduced after the market demanded.
So, what is the difference between all of those karats of gold?
To break it down in a simple way, Gold is mixed with other metals to make it an alloy suitable for jewelry making and stone setting. Copper, silver, palladium and zinc are added to the gold in different percentages which effect the color and hardness of the gold alloy.
24K Gold (99.5% pure gold and above)
Pure gold is made of 24 parts gold. It is less dense and therefore softer and more pliable and rarely if ever used for jewelry. Gold coins and bars are bought of 24K and it takes a bright and saturated yellow color.
22K Gold (91.7% gold)
22K is made of 22 parts gold and 2 parts other metals making this alloy common in jewelry making. 22K Gold is still considered a soft metal and is therefore only used in plain gold jewelry and it is not preferable for jewelry that is heavily studded with stones or diamonds. Pearl Jewelry in the Arabian Gulf Countries is made of 22K gold which also has a bright yellow color.
18K Gold (75% gold)
18K is gold alloy with 18 parts gold and 6 parts other metals, it is harder than 22K and therefore ideal for setting diamonds and precious stones, it has a paler yellow color and is lower in price than 22K.
In Kuwait, it is illegal to sell any gold bellow 18K and state that it is “Gold Jewelry”, any piece of jewelry bellow 18K is considered an accessory in Kuwait. It is also mandatory for all Gold Jewelry shop owners to take a copy of the client’s Identification and contact number and submit them when needed to the National Committee Against Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing.