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For a long time, when people said black gold, they were colloquially referring to oil. Now, however, there really is such a thing as black gold in the jewelry industry and it is fast increasing in popularity.
One reason that black gold is so popular is due to its edgy, unique look. It makes for non-conforming, non-conventional jewelry choices and has an eye-catching, beautiful appearance. Although there are other types of black metals used for jewelry, black gold comes with its distinct advantages.
In this article, we cover everything you need to know about black gold before you buy.
What is black gold?
The original color of gold is the yellowish hue that everyone associates with the term gold. With new technologies and methods arising, varieties of gold have become popular, including rose, green, white and blue gold.
In the case of black gold, there are a few different ways to create the metal. Let’s take a quick look into what these are, without going into too much technical detail.
To form a black gold alloy, gold is mixed with another metal such as cobalt, usually to the ratio of 3 parts gold to 1 part metal. However, although this is called an alloy it is not really one. The black layer is only on the surface unlike other alloys where the metals are combined.
This is the more common method used for black gold. This is where the gold piece of jewelry is plated with a black finish, usually with black rhodium or ruthenium. The clear disadvantage with electroplating is that over time, the color wears off and replating will be required.
This is also the most affordable option. Rhodium plating is an industry standard and the rhodium gives the gold a shiny, polished surface.
Femto-second laser treated black gold
This recently discovered method involves using a powerful femto-second laser to manipulate the surface structure of the metal with high amounts of focused energy. What results is a metal that is pitch black. This is the most durable of the methods detailed here.
This is, however, an extremely expensive and energy-consuming method at this stage. If, in the future, this method becomes more readily available in the jewelry industry, it would provide a very durable version of black gold.
Is black gold valuable?
This would depend on how much real gold is in your black gold jewelry. The higher the percentage of gold, the more valuable the piece.
The black metals used in the creation of black gold does not add to nor detract from the original worth of the gold.
And as gold does not lose its worth, the value of the black gold will likely remain consistent.
Black Gold vs. Other Popular Black Metals
There are a few different black jewelry options available on the market so how does black gold compare?
Black tungsten is resistant to scratching and maintains its finish for a long time. It is also hypoallergenic and quite affordable. However, tungsten can shatter or break if dealt a hard blow and tungsten rings cannot be resized.
Black ceramic jewelry is known for its ability to maintain its luster forever and has consistent color throughout the ring (meaning that it is not just surface plated). Black ceramic is also an affordable option but like tungsten, it too can shatter or crack if knocked or dropped.
Black titanium is extremely durable, lightweight and scratch resistant and is smooth and shiny, somewhat similar to enamel. However, it cannot be resized and its surface can show scuffs and scratches over time. Because titanium is a very strong metal, cutting a titanium ring in an emergency can prove very difficult.
Black carbon fiber is a very strong, extremely durable, heat-resistant and lightweight material. It is not a metal but rather a type of very versatile fabric. Carbon fiber is also very affordable, and is a good choice for jewelry.
As you can see, these options have their pros and cons. Black gold is not as hard, scratch resistant or as durable as some of the above-mentioned materials, but it is more valuable than these due to its gold content.
Black Gold Jewelry
Because black is an uncommon color for jewelry, seeing any black jewelry item will immediately be an attention-grabber. Black jewelry is sleek and bold, and is perfect for any occasion. However, because it isn’t a mainstream jewelry color, finding black gold jewelry can prove to be difficult.
Black gold pendants and earrings will last much longer and require less maintenance than a black gold ring which is subject to exposure. A little black gold goes a long way, so unless you’re looking for statement pieces specifically, small, delicate black gold jewelry is the way to go.
You might be wondering:
What if I don’t end up liking my black gold jewelry? Because black gold is the result of a surface treatment, you can easily have your black gold replated in another color. For instance, turn your black gold into white gold with a clear rhodium plating. Seen this way, there is little risk in investing in black gold jewelry.
Black Gold Engagement Rings
Black gold engagement rings are not for the faint-hearted! They are eye-catching, attention-grabbing and a definite talking point. Not everyone will love a black gold engagement ring because it is very different from what we’re used to.
Colorless diamonds give a beautiful contrast to black gold and as we know, black and white are timeless neutral colors that suit any outfit and occasion.
If, however, you wish for a stronger contrast and a dash of color, choose a colored gemstone such as amethyst, sapphire or ruby. The black gold setting will only serve to accentuate the beauty of the gemstone.
For men’s engagement rings (yes this is a thing! Did you know that 5% of men wear engagement rings while 67% are open to wearing one?), black gold offers an alternative and trendy option.
Black Gold Wedding Bands
Black gold is also an excellent color for wedding rings, especially for men. One benefit of black gold as opposed to other black metals such as tungsten and carbon fiber, is that in general it can easily be resized. While resizing black gold often requires replating, it is still a handy option to have.
Before you buy it though, just ensure that this is indeed a style you believe you will love decades down the line. Other popular wedding metals such as yellow or white gold and platinum have lasted the test of time and emerged as timeless classics. Black gold is a new addition to the wedding ring metals, so it is yet to be seen whether this too can stand the test of time and remain as trendy 40 years hence as it is now.
A wedding ring is a lifetime decision, so consider if it is something you will be comfortable with years from now.
Replating Black Gold Jewelry
Because most black gold on the market is plated, over time, this plating tends to wear off. Also, every time the piece is scratched or scuffed, the gold beneath the black plating will show through. This is known as ‘bleeding’.
In order to maintain the color of your black gold, you will need to have the piece replated. Unfortunately, depending on the wear and tear your black gold is exposed to, replating may be required every 6 months to every couple of years.
Consider that this is an ongoing expense, costing anywhere approximately between $35 to $60 each time.
Read our article on rhodium plating to learn about the plating process.
Taking Care of Black Gold
Avoid rubbing or abrading the black gold, as this can cause it to scratch. When cleaning black gold jewelry, use a non-abrasive jewelry cleaner or a solution of warm soapy water with a soft-bristled brush or cloth to gently.
Take care not to knock or bump black gold jewelry as this can cause the plating to scratch, revealing the gold underneath. As the plating wears off and the item appears faded, have the item replated at a jewelers to regain its shine and luster.
When storing black gold jewelry, place in a cloth bag or lined box, without contact with other jewelry items. This keeps it free from scratches.
Shopping for Black Gold Jewelry
As I mentioned above, black gold is not a common metal, so finding it at physical shops near you can prove to be difficult. If you take your search online, you will have a lot more options.
Always make sure to buy from a reputable retailer. This may seem obvious, but often it can be difficult to tell whether someone is an established retailer. Check reviews, if possible, about the retailer. What are people saying about them? Ask questions prior to purchase and communicate with the seller.
It is also important to check the after sales policies. Are there returns policies, warranty or free maintenance? If purchasing online, check the shipping policies as well in case you decide to return the item.