These days, jewelry choices go beyond the usual gold or silver, as chemistry has given rise to less expensive, alloyed metals that can fool the most discerning of eyes. Yellow lustrium, one such metal, has the appearance of 10-karat gold at a price that’s easier on the wallet. Before you make your decision, educate yourself to the differences between the real deal, 10-karat gold, and its impostor, yellow lustrium.
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Jewelers measure the purity of gold--a soft, malleable precious metal--by karats. Pure gold equals 24 karats, but any number less than 24 means it contains other metals, usually copper, palladium or silver, to make it more durable. According to the Federal Trade Commission, 10-karat gold contains 10 parts gold and 14 parts of an alloy metal, making it 41.7 percent pure gold. A combination of nickel and chromium creates lustrium, an alloy metal. Yellow lustrium comes from blending lustrium with enough 23-karat gold to give it the yellow color. A layer of 23-karat gold often coats its surface as well.
Ten-karat gold appears shiny and yellow. As it mixes with other metals, its color turns a bit lighter than purer gold pieces, but as an alloy, it has more durability and scratch-resistance than gold. To the naked eye, lustrium looks exactly like 10-karat gold, and functions as a highly durable alloy metal that does not tarnish.
According to Geology.com, gold rates as the most useful mineral on Earth and has many purposes beyond that of mere jewelry. Long used as currency, gold's natural properties of conductivity and malleability also make it ideal for use in electronics and computers, as well as in the medical and dental industries. Lustrium, in contrast, serves only as a material for jewelry, particularly in class and commemorative rings.
Ten-karat gold's status as the lowest grade of gold sold in the United States makes it the most affordable. It contains more precious metal than lustrium, making its value higher as fine jewelry. The main benefit of lustrium comes from its status as an even more affordable option than 10-karat gold in jewelry. As yellow lustrium's color appears throughout the metal from being mixed with gold, a scratch to the surface does not produce a difference in color, a usual concern with gold-plated items.
Ten-karat gold will likely tarnish over time, due to the metals in its alloy. It contains more soft gold than lustrium, making it less resistance to scratches and damage. Lustrium contains less precious metal than 10-karat gold, decreasing its value as jewelry. As alloyed metals, both 10-karat gold and yellow lustrium could cause allergic reactions from the levels of common metal allergens, such as nickel and copper, in the mixtures.