Hello dear Wiezewasjes fan,
Today is World Gold Day! Even though 2020 has been a pretty turbulent year so far, we have a lot of great news. For example, we moved to a larger office for the gazillionth time, our wholesale started and (I'm sure you won't have missed it) we're also selling our own 14K gold collection since this year! We noticed that there were a lot of questions, both from our customers and our team. To answer all of these questions we have done some research and sat down with the golden gurl, shop fairy, fairy go(l)dmother and above all: our very own goldsmith Lisa! It's a lot of information but it's also really interesting!
“We are all star stuff, and our jewelry is colliding-star stuff.”
- Carl Sagan
To get straight to the point: what exactly is gold? The simple version: gold is a precious metal. The less simple but infinitely more imaginative version: gold is "colliding-star stuff", according to Carl Sagan. Which version is the truth?
We'll go straight to the sciency part and I know, we're not normally like that, but believe me, it's really fascinating!
Gold is a chemical element indicated by the symbol Au, which is short for aurum (Latin for "gold"). The term gold comes from the Old English word geolo or yellow. When we talk about bullion or the nobility of a metal, we are talking about the extent to which a metal oxidizes or corrodes. The less a metal reacts to external influences, the more noble it is! Iron for example, is very sensitive to water, it quickly rusts. Copper turns completely green if it is exposed to natural circumstances for too long. Silver is a lot more resistant and only reacts to sulfur. When it's in contact with sulfur, a black layer of silver sulfide is formed on the silver. It is therefore also slightly less noble than the king of precious metals: gold, which reacts to absolutely nothing! Gold does not originate on our planet in the same way minerals originate here. In fact, this planet was created partly thanks to gold.
The origin of gold: a supernova explosion!
There are two ways gold enters the universe. Gold can be created during a so called 'supernova-explosion' or by the death of a star at least 8 times (!) as large as our sun. If two of those exploded stars collide, it produces gold! In both situations, billions of particles, including gold, are catapulted into space. When these particles hit the gravitational pull of a new star like our sun, they begin to clump together as they orbit the star and grow in size until they eventually form planets. All the gold on earth has therefore existed since the formation of our solar system, the complete stock is very limited! At some point, all the gold on Earth will be extracted from the ground..
Where does gold come from?
Gold is a very soft metal, which means that, like silver, it is usually not suitable in its pure form for making utensils or jewelry (and of course also because, you know, it is not affordable if your name is not Bill Gates :P). To make it harder, it is mixed with other metals, such a mixture is called an alloy. In addition to plain yellow gold, there are also alloys that give the gold a different color. You have white gold (palladium, zinc, nickel or platinum) and rose gold (copper and silver), but there is also green gold (silver), purple gold (aluminium) and blue gold (indium)! The quality or purity of gold is expressed in karats or 24th parts: 24 karat is pure, 100% gold. Currently, the largest amounts of gold are mined in the US, South Africa, Canada and Russia. But gold is actually found all over the world. Every year, about 1400 tons of gold are extracted from the ground!
In order to guarantee the quality of gold, it must be inspected according to the law. This must be from 0.5 grams. This gold hallmark is centuries old, the first gold hallmark system originated in London around the year 1300. In the Netherlands there is the WaarborgHolland in Gouda, all gold must be hallmarked there and stamped with a content mark and the hallmark of the hallmark before it can be sold . In addition to the hallmark, there is also the maker's mark, a gold stamp of a specific goldsmith or jeweller, and a year letter, a letter stamp that changes every year so that you can find out in which year the gold was inspected. There used to be several gold certification offices in the Netherlands, each of which had its own quality mark.
The oldest gold object found so far is a small gold bead dating back to an impressive 4600 BC. A period that was also called the Copper Age. It was found in the ruins of a prehistoric settlement in Bulgaria, an area where a lot of gold has been found. They were not only there early in that region, ancient gold objects have been found all over the world. The fact that gold has been valued for so long is partly due to its beautiful shiny appearance, but also the relative softness and low melting temperature of the metal have played a role in this. They didn't need a mega fancy furnace to melt gold. It is clear that gold was not really suitable as a utensil at the time, gold was mainly used as an ornamental object, jewelery or as a means of exchange.
The Wiezewasjes gold
The moment you’ve all been waiting for: our goldsmith Lisa explains in great detail how the new gold collection came about!
How do you proceed while forging?
“Of course I can't reveal all my secrets ;)! When I make a ring it goes like this: I get the gold. Then I have to make a design, I then start writing down all the ideas. Then I have to measure everything because of course it has to do with material thickness and all the different ring sizes. I really have to measure everything perfectly, it really works at 0.00000 mm. Super interesting, you must really like tinkering! Don't have shaky hands, don't drink too much coffee, have good focus with your eyes. You can't do CTRL-Z to undo a mistake, then you have to start all over again.”
“Our gold line is fairly minimalistic, I've been working on a ring for the longest time. After soldering I of course have to sand and polish everything. If I didn't do that, the ring would remain very matte, also very beautiful, but we want this collection to have a high gloss. I do the polishing with different hardnesses of polishing grease. I put the ring in cold water immediately after soldering. The cold is necessary because all the molecules of the metal are deformed after bending and are then “scared” back into place, the metal is then at its strongest, if you wouldn't scare it, it would be much more fragile. Then I put it in the hot boil, so that the oxidized gold (or silver) magically disappears. Decoction is hot water with a chemical substance added.
I'm a very perfectionist and I'm not an insecure person until it comes to blacksmithing, then I think everything over and if I see even one detail I'm not happy with, I don't want to sell it right away. I only want to deliver jewelry that I am really 100% satisfied with.”
How many carats is the Wiezewasjes gold collection and is it possible to check this?
“The companies where our gold material comes from are very reliable, you only have a few companies in the Netherlands that sell real gold and you only have one guarantee in the Netherlands that inspects the gold. So if you make gold, it must be inspected and it must have a gold stamp. This is done at the guarantee in Gouda. We also do this with our final jewelry! We have regular 14 karat gold. If we have any doubts about the authenticity, I have a tool with which I can check how many carats of gold it is.”
Is it possible to find out what other metals have been used as fillers?
“That is not easy, there is a standard alloy, but you never know 100% for sure until you make it yourself. You can eventually find out, but then you really have to look with a microscope, or melting temperatures. Look, goldsmith really sounds like a very creative job, but there's really so much scientific knowledge behind it. That is really super cool!”
Do you like gold itself?
"YES! I love gold and silver both! I think I also have very accessible skin for wearing both gold and silver. I just don't wear my gold every day, I have a very large 18 carat gold ring with a faceted citrine. But now due to Corona times I wear less rings. It is better to take off your rings when washing your hands. It is better for the stones and for the (precious) metal. Stones originate in nature and there they do not come into contact with all human chemical substances. You keep your rings the best by taking them off with washing your hands or disinfecting them. Gold does not react to water or soap or alcohol, but because it is so soft, the shine is affected, miniscule scratches appear in the surface. If you hold soap under a microscope you will see that it also contains small grains. Long story short: take off your jewelry when you wash your hands!”
What does gold mean to you?
“Life, hahaha! It just makes me very happy. Often people are like you're a goldsmith, you only care about the looks because it's shiny and you wear it to show it off. But for me gold has a completely different side: it is an ancient craft. You can already find jewelry from the ancient Egyptians and Vikings. It's not just outward appearance, it also has a lot of emotional value. A contact with the past. Jewelry was worn in every culture, as a status symbol or to show that you belonged to a certain tribe. It is so much more than just appearance. Now, for example, you often receive jewelry from your grandparents that have been passed down for generations. It's more than a piece of jewelry, it's also the emotional side and for me as a goldsmith: because you start from scratch and go through so many steps, every step of the forging process adds value. I really have to say goodbye to every piece of jewelry I make... Almost like adopting a puppy, I actually want to personally speak to all the people who buy my jewelry to see if they will take good care of it. So gold has so many more sides than just looking good!”
Is there anything you would still like to say?
“Pay attention to the number of carats! For example, in Europe, 9 karat does not count as gold. There are many vintage 9 carat gold rings offered on the internet, but when you buy that you are robbing your own pockets. There is such a small percentage of gold in 9 carat gold jewelry: only 9/24th or 37.5%! Go for at least 14 carat gold if you really want to invest. Then it is also a beautiful heirloom that you can use for years!”
Well, that was quite a story! Gold is rare and the natural supply is limited. To get from an exploded star particle to a ring, a lot of work is done! But oh boy, it's well worth it. Are you completely convinced right now and do you want to go straight to our 14 carat gold collection? Check it out via this link!