What Is Rose Gold? Composition | Price | Properties

The history of the “rose gold” started in the mid 19th century in Imperial Russia. Peter Carl Fabergé was one of the first jewelers to use this precious metal in his most ornate creations.

Mixing yellow gold with copper resulted in an enticing pink material that was first coined as “Russian Gold.” As this combination of two metals became popular among jewelers worldwide, it was later renamed “Rose Gold.”

However, the popularity of rose gold is far different from ‘original’ gold. It goes in and out of style. For example, it was extremely popular during the Victorian era (between 1830 and 1901) when pink was considered the color of romance. Then its demand started declining due to the arrival of new trends (icy white metal jewelry) in the fashion industry.

Rose gold experienced a resurgence in popularity during the retro period (from the 1930s to 1950s). And now, after decades of white metal dominating jewelry designs, consumers are again showing a lot of interest in rose gold items. In the consumer electronics industry, particularly, rose gold is enjoying its inaugural moment.

In this overview article, I’ve explained what rose gold is, how it is different from other types of gold, and why it is so popular. Let’s start with the basics:

What Is Rose Gold Made Of?

Rose gold doesn’t occur in nature. Instead, it is synthesized by blending some metals at high temperatures.

Rose gold is an alloy of pure gold and copper. The proportion of these two metals changes the color of the final product and its karat.

The most expensive alloy of rose gold contains 91.66% gold and 8.33% copper, which produces 22K rose gold. Sometimes small amounts of silver are added to make slightly different variants of rose gold called “pink gold.” Such alloys contain 75% gold, 22.25% copper, and 2.75% silver.

Big jewelry companies perform numerous experiments to find the perfect combination to create the rosy blush. Their specialized techniques become closely guarded trade secrets.

Rose Gold Vs. Pure Gold 

In its pure form, gold is a slightly reddish yellow, soft, dense, and ductile metal. When alloyed with other metals, gold becomes harder and more resistant to wear and tear. It is then used to make different types of jewelry.

The purity of gold in any jewelry is measured by Karat(K), a term that defines the fineness of gold. 24K gold signifies 99.9% purity. It is known as pure gold because it doesn’t contain traces of other metals. There is no higher form of gold than 24 Karat in the commercial market.

22K gold signifies 91.6% purity. This means 22 parts of the jewelry amount to gold, and 2 parts are other metals like copper and silver. It is harder and less expensive than 24K gold.

What is rose gold18K Rose Gold with Diamonds 

Similarly, 18K gold piece contains 18 parts of gold and 6 parts of other metals. It signifies 75% purity. Since it contains more traces of other (alloy) metals, it is harder and less expensive than 22K gold.

Rose gold is made by adding copper and (sometimes) silver to pure gold. Blending these metals in different proportions produces different versions of rose gold. The higher the trace metals, the lower the purity (Karat) of the rose gold piece.

Rose Gold (Karat) Gold Copper Silver
22K 91.66% 8.33% N/A
18K 75% 22.25% 2.75%
14K 58.33% 32.5% 9.15%
10K 41.66% 38.33% 20%
9K 37.5% 42.5% 20%

The 22K is the highest karat version of rose gold. It is also called crown gold.

Rose, Red, and Pink Gold

Rose, red, and pink gold sound similar and often used interchangeably, but the difference in their color is due to the varying copper content. The more the copper content, the darker the red coloration.

Rose Gold colorImage credit: aide-memoire-jewelry

Red gold has the most copper, and pink gold uses the least copper content among these three colored gold. For example,

  • 9K red gold contains 37.5% gold, 55% copper, and 7.5% silver
  • 12K red gold contains gold and copper in equal proportion
  • 18K red gold contains 75% gold and 25% copper
  • 18K rose gold contains 75% gold, 22.25% copper, and 2.75% silver
  • 18K pink gold contains 75%, 20% copper, and 5% silver

Advantages and Disadvantages of Rose Gold

Rose gold is not just one of the most romantic metals on Earth. It has several other benefits:

  • It doesn’t rust, tarnish or corrode under normal conditions
  • Since it is more malleable than platinum, it is easier to shape it up into intricate designs
  • Unlike white gold, it doesn’t need the rhodium plating to retain its color
  • The price of gold is more stable than other precious metals. Thus, it can be used for investment purposes (especially in times of economic depression).

Like any other material, it has some shortcomings too.

  • Rose gold jewelry is not as common as yellow and white gold items.
  • Although it is hard and durable, it can be scratched when worn on a daily basis.
  • Rose gold jewelry can cause allergic reactions (due to copper content). However, it’s very rare.

Price of Rose Gold

In the United States, one gram of rose gold costs –

  • 22 Karat: $57/gram
  • 18 Karat: $46/gram
  • 14 Karat: $36 /gram

This excludes making charges, which usually range between 6% and 14% of the price of gold used in the jewelry and may go higher depending upon the jeweler. Furthermore, the price of a commodity at any given time reflects the balance between supply (availability) and demand (need).

A Long History Of Rose Gold

In the 1850s, a large steamship loaded with 30,000 pounds of gold sunk off the coast of South Carolina. Significant amounts of gold and artifacts were recovered and brought to the surface in 1988. Many researchers studied some of those recovered artifacts.

In 2017, archaeologists discovered an unusual preference for slightly reddish-gold jewelry from the first millennium in present-day Colombia. This is quite strange because the whole Andean region is historically famous for mastering the technique of gilding, in which metals are made more golden than they should be based on their composition.

To do this, gold leaves were applied onto the surface of an inexpensive metal. Some Andean goldsmiths also started using a method called “depletion gilding.” They would mix the gold with copper and then oxidize and polish the surface of the resulting material to make it look purer.

Researchers at the Museum of Gold in Bogotá, Colombia, investigated 44 pinkish metal artifacts from the Nahuange culture (A.D. 100 –1000) and found that instead of keeping the gold color, goldsmiths used to burnish these pieces to expose the orange and pink hues underneath.

Read: What Is White Gold? Composition | Price | Properties

Frequency Asked Questions

Why Are Rose Gold So Popular?

Not only will you find this color used in jewelry pieces and make-up, but you will also find it in homewares and tech gadgets. With the release of the iPhone 6S line in 2016, this color gained more popularity in the tech world. 

Rose gold is quite rare. And since the fashion industry loves exclusivity, it makes rose gove even more desirable. Today, you can easily find both men and women wearing rose gold jewelry and accessories.

What’s more, in 2016, Rose Quartz (similar to the color of rose gold) was selected for Pantone’s Colour of the Year. In the world of fights, protests, and riots, Pantone chose this Rose Quartz because its color conveyed a “sense of order and peace, something that speaks to people.”

The other factors that make rose gold popular are:

  • It has a vintage appeal
  • It is calm and soothing
  • It represents compassion and composure
  • It is extremely versatile and looks great on everyone
Is Rose Gold More Expensive Than Yellow Gold?

No. Rose gold is not entirely made of pure gold. Its price depends on the Karat designation (quantity of gold) in an item. Since 18K or 14K rose gold contains the same amount of gold as 18K or 14K yellow gold, they cost the same as their counterparts.

The prices may vary according to the alloyed metals and design complexity of the item. The 18K yellow gold jewelry piece will cost more than the 18K rose gold jewelry piece (of the same design) because the former contains more silver content.

Does Rose Gold Turn Yellow?

Yes. Although it doesn’t happen easily, it turns yellow over time. This is because copper is a reactive element. It gets oxidized in the normal surroundings, causing discoloration.

Additionally, exposing rose gold jewelry to sweat, chlorine, saltwater, and skin and body care products can affect its appearance. Prolonged or repeated exposure will cause rose gold to lose its reddish or pinkish tone.

However, the good thing is that these changes are limited to the surface only. You can polish your jewelry to retain its original color. And if you are not using it, it’s better to store jewelry in a dry, airtight container.

Read: Is Gold Magnetic? Does It Stick To Anything?

How To Clean Rose Gold Jewelry?

Like any other precious item, rose gold jewelry must be cleaned gently. You can dip your jewelry in a mixture of mild detergent and lukewarm water for 15-20 minutes. Then use soft bristles toothbrush and a soft cotton cloth to clean the surface properly.

Written by
Varun Kumar

Varun Kumar is a professional science and technology journalist and a big fan of AI, machines, and space exploration. He received a Master's degree in computer science from GGSIPU University. To find out about his latest projects, feel free to directly email him at [email protected] 

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