Year 4: How soft is pure gold? A continuing real world experiment.
Those following at home might recall I've posted an annual update on the gold necklace that I wear:
This is the second necklace I had custom made for me in a style known as "baht". Baht is the monetary unit in Thailand. But it's also a unit of measurement just under a half troy ounce (15.244 grams) popular in southeast Asia. And it's the style of jewelry where local goldsmiths produce high quality, often unadorned necklace, rings, and bracelets out of high karat (22k to 24k) gold.
We've been told for much of the last century that pure gold is too soft for jewelry. The truth is that most of Asia and much of the middle east would scoff at gold less than 22K (91.6% pure), and most demand 99.9% or 24K pure gold. The standard for Europe is 18K (75% pure). While we in the US buy 14K, which is barely more than half gold (58.3% pure). And 10K? It's just 41.7% pure.
We as coin collectors know that coins are some of the oldest, hardest-working machines that humans have ever invented. And circulating gold coins have been high purity for centuries.
Aside from its very high gold content, baht jewelry sells for a much smaller markup, generally 25% +/- of the value of the gold use in its manufacture. Compare that to the jewelry store out at the mall which can charge 300% to 500% or more of the value of the gold used.
My first baht necklace was about 2 ounces. Had it made for me back in 2005, and I paid a whopping $1120. Wore it for a few years but put it away eventually. Then back in the late summer of 2018 I got the itch again. The gold price was down, my discretionary income was up. Started looking around and found a Hmong jeweler in St. Paul (9999 Gold Jewelry, look them up on Facebook) who seemed to really get great big, chunky, pure gold jewelry. Contacted their main jeweler and, after several conversations, pulled the trigger on an "anchor" style necklace, in 24K .9999 pure gold. I wanted the piece to clock in at just over 5 troy ounces so there was no mistaking its 5 troy ounce weight, so we upped its weight to 156 grams.
Got the necklace just about four years ago today, and I've worn it essentially every day since. I typically wear it on the outside of my shirt (which I'm way too old to try pulling off). But I am who I am. So it sees lots of abuse.
Has my necklace worn? Yes. Absolutely. The crisp ridges that are part of the manufacturing process have become more smooth. "Softened" is a good word. But the key thing is that it isn't anywhere near "wearing out". The weight difference from when I first got it to just now might be explained by the scale, battery power, atmosphere. Or it could be legit a tiny fraction of a gram after constant wear. I just examined each link and they're all rock solid. Note the traditional "dragon" clasp. It, too, is pure gold. Gold is so malleable that the clasp has no moving parts--you literally just bend, or pull, the clasp open and then squeeze, or bend it back to close it (though my necklace is so large I just slip it over my head).
Here's how she looked four years ago:
And how she looks right now. Shown with the OG smaller original 2 ounce gold necklace (that my 13 year old son has just about co-opted), and the 1.5 ounce gold bangle bracelet I had the same jeweler make for my wife a couple of years back.
--Severian the Lame