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Yellow Gold 101: History, Styling Tips, and More

Yellow gold: a modern twist on a classic favorite...

There are always new trends changing the way people see jewelry and fashion. As a result, it can be difficult to choose the right metal, gemstones, and design to fit your personal style. While gold, silver, and platinum have a long history as “go-to” jewelry metals, new materials and methods are used every day to create one of a kind pieces. Recently, unique materials such as stone, clay, and even plastic, have also appeared through DIY jewelry making videos, making pricier, durable metals seem less important.😝

Regardless of the constant changes, many people still prefer the classics. Yellow gold, in particular, has a prominent place in history as a revered precious metal. But where does it come from, and how can wearers style yellow gold today to create a fashionable look? Let’s discuss the history and specifics of yellow gold as well as the best ways to incorporate it into your daily wear.

Yellow Gold Bar: Yellow Gold 101 With Facts and Styling Tips

Yellow gold throughout millennia

Ancient history of yellow gold

Yellow gold’s legacy is as long as human history, and this metal is highly valued across cultures. It dates back as early as 3000 BCE, where royal families buried gold robes, crowns, and trinkets in their own tombs. Since then, gold has been a staple in jewelry, art, and royal decor for multiple ancient cultures. Many countries even used gold as currency!

More recent history

Throughout the 1900’s, yellow gold experienced periods of popularity and decline. It reached peak popularity in the 1960s–1980s with yellow gold wedding bands and engagement rings, but this love fizzled out. However, Meghan Markle’s yellow gold ring reignited the public love of yellow gold in the last 10 years.

Gold also has many uses unrelated to jewelry because it’s resistant to tarnish, conducts electricity, and is naturally soft and flexible. Today, you can find gold in electronics as well as medical and aerospace technology.

Throughout time, gold has symbolized power, strength, opulence, and beauty. It also represents purity, acting as the base for both white and rose gold. Finally, because of its long lifespan, gold represents eternal love❤️ for many who wear it as their wedding ring.

Pros of yellow gold

There are plenty of reasons to love yellow gold as a jewelry metal. The pros of choosing yellow gold are:

  • Most hypoallergenic gold color
  • Purest gold alloy, meaning you get a great value for the price
  • Does not require as much maintenance and can be easily reshaped by a jeweler
  • Classic appearance that looks great in all settings: casual, professional, formal, etc.
  • Widely available and reasonably priced

Cons of yellow gold

Despite all of the reasons to love yellow gold, it does have its drawbacks. The cons of choosing yellow gold are:

  • High purity level means it is susceptible to dents and scratches
  • Yellow color tends to compliment some skin tones better than others

🧐Yellow gold FAQ

What is yellow gold?

Gold, or chemical element Au, is a shiny, reddish-yellow metal. Yellow gold is the most hypoallergenic option for gold lovers, and it requires less maintenance than other alloys. While gold appears naturally in many places, China is thought to have the highest production of yellow gold.

Is yellow gold pure?

Similar to other metals, jewelers measure the purity of yellow gold in karats. The yellow gold used in jewelry is not 100% pure, as it is too soft and will scratch very easily. To create a more durable alloy, manufacturers often mix yellow gold with zinc and copper.

Yellow gold typically appears in three percentages: 14K, 18K, and 24K. 24K yellow gold is the purest form at 99.9% gold. The most common alloy is 18K yellow gold, which is 75% gold and has a bright, elegant hue. 14K yellow gold is also an option at 58.3% gold, and it will have fewer scratches and dents than alloys of a higher purity. However, 14K will not have the vibrant color of 18K or 24K due to its lower gold content. 22K and 10K yellow gold are also options at some retailers, though these are uncommon.

Still confused?  Here’s a chart to compare the different purities of yellow gold and find which one is right for you:

[Infographic] Gold Karat Guide (10K-24K)

Is yellow gold durable?

 Yellow gold is extremely malleable in its pure form, and it can be stretched or beaten into incredibly thin wires and sheets under the right conditions. However, the yellow gold alloys used in jewelry are made to last much longer. In terms of relative hardness, yellow gold is softer than platinum or silver, but it’s still durable enough to withstand daily wear.

Is yellow gold expensive? Does it require a lot of maintenance?

Yellow gold is an affordable alternative to platinum, so it’s definitely something to consider if you’re looking for a bright, unique metal. In addition, yellow gold, white gold, and rose gold are all similarly priced. However, white gold requires rhodium plating every few years, so yellow gold will cost less in the long run.

Other yellow metals used in jewelry

Few metals rival the yellow hue of gold, but there are a few options to consider. Here are some common alternatives to yellow gold below:

Brass

Brass is another yellow metal that is highly malleable, but it lacks the shine of yellow gold. While not typically used in jewelry, brass can be found in decor, such as picture frames and candle holders, instruments, and other pieces where individuals may consider a gold alternative.

Unlike gold, brass is heavily susceptible to tarnish and will require additional work to keep it clean. Additionally, brass does not have a karat rating, and so it is easily identified compared to the stamping commonly placed on gold objects.

African Boho-Style Oversized Brass Earrings
Photo by havanaflamingo / Etsy

Gold Plated

If budget is your concern when shopping for yellow gold jewelry, consider a gold plated piece. Manufacturers create gold plated jewelry by dipping a base metal, such as brass or copper, into gold to add a thin surface layer. This product is much cheaper, as the layer of gold is only .5-1.0 microns thick.

Although gold plating is more cost-effective, the gold layer will not last nearly as long as a solid yellow gold piece. Also, brass and copper react to liquids—water, hairspray, shampoo, etc.—and so once the gold wears off, your piece may turn green or irritate your skin.⚠️

Gold Filled

Unlike the name suggests, gold filled jewelry is not actually FILLED with yellow gold. Manufacturers bond a layer of gold to the surface of copper or brass. While plating measures gold content in thickness, gold filling requires the piece to have 5% gold by weight. As such, you get much more gold for your money!

Gold-filled jewelry typically lasts much longer than gold plating due to the thickness of the gold layer. But, longevity still depends on how well you take care of your jewelry. If the gold wears off, the only way to fix your piece would be to find someone who can plate it with more gold, diminishing its value.🙁 If you’re tough on your jewelry, getting a piece that’s solid yellow gold may be a safer bet in the long run.

Gold Vermeil

Yellow gold vermeil is the higher-end alternative to gold plating and filling. It actually uses the same process as gold plating, but with better materials. To qualify as vermeil, the gold plating must be at least 2.5 microns thick and made of 10K gold. The base metal must also be sterling silver, which means fewer allergens and more value!

Gold vermeil pieces will last longer than plated or filled jewelry, and they carry their value much better over time. However, there is always a chance the gold layer can rub off if you are not careful!

Solid Gold vs. Other Gold Alloys: Gold Plated, Gold Filled and Gold Vermel

What other jewelry features pair well with yellow gold?

Because of its unique color, yellow gold can be difficult to pair with other jewelry features without a bit of thought. Additionally, these add ons can really change the look of a piece, affecting the occasions it’s suitable for. Gemstones, mixed metals, and other factors may require a bit more research, but finding the right colors to match your yellow gold piece will only further its appeal. 😎

Here are some suggestions of how to find the right components to make your yellow gold piece pop:

Gemstones

Gemstones come in a rainbow of colors, and most of them look wonderful when set in yellow gold. However, if you’re really looking to make a stone sparkle, you should ensure its color compliments that of the setting. Jewelers often use blue, pink, red, green, and orange stones in yellow gold settings. Or, pearls and other opaque stones, such as jade or opal, can make a bold statement as well. By using a color wheel, you can also do your own research regarding what colors would look best with gold. Gemstones are a great way to dress up yellow gold for special events, like this yellow gold ruby ring.

14K Yellow Gold Ring With Large Natural Red Ruby Gemstone and Small Diamonds
Check this yellow gold ruby ring.

Yellow gold is also perfect for engagement rings, as the yellow color makes lower quality diamonds look much whiter. This means you can reduce your diamond one or two grades and still have a bright shine to your ring!

Mixed metals

When mixing yellow gold with other metals, it’s important to ensure their colors do not clash. For instance, yellow gold looks stunning with white gold and platinum, as the opposite colors create an entirely new look. These yellow gold diamond earrings with white gold accents are a perfect way to mix metals in a classy fashion.

Diamond Swirl Earrings in Yellow and White Gold | Blue Nile
Diamond swirl earrings in yellow and white gold. See the details.

In contrast, yellow gold does not quite pair as well with rose gold, as the yellow brings out the brassier tones of the soft rose color. But, yellow gold can also pair well with other materials, such as stone. Mixing yellow gold with earthy materials also provides a more casual look, while white gold and platinum create an elevated look for professional settings.

Yellow gold and fashion

Although yellow gold has had mixed popularity for the last 30 years, it has become a contemporary trend that appeals to even the most fashion-forward individuals. Taking a classic metal and adding a modern spin, jewelry designers have breathed new life into this ancient metal, creating endless new looks to keep up with everyday style.

🧜🏻There are several ways to wear yellow gold, so take a look at these suggestions below:

Occasion

Yellow gold can fit any occasion, but the piece you choose will drastically affect this fit. For instance, delicate yellow gold pieces are perfect for daily wear. When looking for casual wear pieces, a small, yellow gold bracelet or pendant is a great way to wear gold without appearing flashy. If you’re seeking a more elevated look, consider pairing yellow gold with diamonds or other gemstones. Adding gemstones to your metal creates a level of refinement, and these pieces can be worn to more formal events.

Yellow Gold Double Chain Bracelet to Create an Elegant Look for Casual Occasions
Dainty yellow gold double chain bracelet for casual wear. See the details.
18K Yellow Gold Diamond Halo Pendant With Adjustable Chain Length (Brilliant Earth)
See the look of this yellow gold diamond pendant.

Outfit colors and patterns

The color of your outfit can make a big difference in your jewelry selection as well. Typically, the colors that go with yellow gold are black, red, deep green, blue, and white, though any other color will still look lovely. Additionally, if you tend to wear a lot of bold or colorful patterns, your yellow gold pieces should be plain to avoid clashing.

Don’t be afraid to mix warm and cool tones: yellow gold and red gemstones can look stunning when paired with deep blue or purple outfits. Mix and match your clothes and accessories to create new looks that stand out among the crowd.✨

Statement pieces

If your outfit feels a bit plain, consider spicing it up with bold, yellow gold accessories. For example, intricate necklaces can draw eyes to your face and make great conversation pieces. If your formal look seems a bit drab, consider large yellow gold earrings with elaborate designs to add some depth to your outfit. By simply changing your jewelry, you can completely shift the tone of your outfit!

Large Yellow Gold Teardrop Earrings for a Bold Statement
Check the details of this large yellow gold teardrop earrings.

Skin tone

While no one should allow their skin tone to preclude them from any jewelry piece, color can play a role in how well a piece compliments your overall look. For instance, if you have cool undertones to your skin, white metals may better accentuate your natural beauty. In contrast, faces with warm undertones glow when wearing a yellow gold necklace, and bronze and copper also look stunning. However, what looks best to you is what’s most important: if you like a particular piece, flaunt it!

Consider Your Skin Tone When Choosing Your Jewelry Metal

The timeless appeal of yellow gold

Yellow gold is the perfect metal for anyone who likes making a statement. Its bold color and strong history evoke images of royalty and refinement. From pharaohs to kings to the everyday person, yellow gold enchants wearers with its bright, everlasting glow. While it may not always be the most popular metal choice, it will always be a fashion staple.

There are so many uses for yellow gold, and it’s a wonderful choice for someone looking to make a lasting impact with their new piece. If properly taken care of, you can pass yellow gold pieces to future generations as beautiful family heirlooms. Yellow gold also makes for a strong statement in wedding jewelry👰🏻, as husbands and wives promise to keep their commitment to each other as enduring as the gold in their wedding bands. In selecting yellow gold, you are choosing to create a legacy piece that will delight you and others for generations to come.