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The Casual Beauty of Golden Earrings
Besides gold, how many other precious materials do you know that can be scooped out of a streambed and made immediately into fine jewelry? Not too many of them, are there? Gold was among the first of human decorative metals, and the invention of golden earrings very likely soon followed its first use. Golden earrings are still as popular as ever; today, the gleam of gold can be seen on the earlobes of men, women, and even children all over the world.
The term "golden earrings" may be taken to include not just earrings made of solid gold in one of its alloyed forms, but also those electroplated with the precious metal. In this guide, we'll consider both types to be golden earrings, and expound a bit on not only the earrings themselves, but also the attractive material they're made from.
Simple or dangly
Earrings in general can be of two basic types, pierced and clip-on, and golden earrings are no different in this regard. Clip-ons use little clips or screws to hold the earrings on by pressure; pierced earrings pass through a hole in the earlobe itself. Most people opt for the latter, since they're generally easier to work with and more comfortable than clip-ons. As for earring types, they can take the form of hoops that pass through the ear and circle back, dangly pendant earrings that offer excellent displays but can tug your lobes out of shape, and quiet studs and balls that fit flush to the earlobe. Then there are ear-spools, which are thick rings or grooved plugs forced through large holes in the ear. An adaptation of ancient Egyptian and Native American practices, they offer a unique look, but leave the earlobes permanently and obviously deformed. Golden earrings can, of course, be found in any of these styles.
Those golden earrings that aren't solid gold are often "washed" or plated with gold. In this procedure, a very thin coating of pure gold just a few molecules thick is deposited on the surface of a base-metal earring. When the process is complete the earring looks as golden as any solid gold item, but the truth is that the coating is so thin that it can easily be rubbed away by everyday use. Still, these types of golden earrings make for excellent costume jewelry, when you either can't afford the real thing or want to keep the originals safe.
Because gold is a heavy, easily deformed metal, it's not often used for jewelry in its purest form. It's too easily scratched, bent, and broken. For this reason, gold alloys of various purities and much greater strength take its place. The metal alloyed to the gold can be just about anything -- copper, silver, palladium, and platinum are common -- as long as they impart a strength without brittleness. Not only does the strength vary according to the amount of gold in the alloy, so does the price. Gold purity is measured by how many parts, per 24, are actually gold; so pure gold is 24-karat, and 18-karat gold is 75% pure. Similarly, 14-karat gold is 58% pure. In most cases, the purity of the gold in golden earrings is indicated by a purity mark in a hidden spot, which might read something like "14 K." However, these marks are not required by law, so if you fail to see one, don't be surprised. Gold-plated golden earrings, however, should always be marked as such.