Can Gold Be Hardened?

If you visit the tool department at a hardware store, you will find wrenches, chisels and other tools that are made of “drop forged steel.” That indicates that they are made of steel alloys that were heated and then hardened when heavy weights that were literally dropped on them repeatedly. If you have ever seen a blacksmith heat a piece of iron until it became red hot and then hit it repeatedly with a big hammer, you have seen a kind of primitive drop forging at work. Those repeated blows actually drive the iron molecules closer together, resulting in a metal that is harder, more resistant to wear…and also more brittle and prone to break.

So, Can Gold Be Forged?

 Hand forging karat gold rings. Credit: Tamßs Ambrits/Hemera.

It might be tempting to think that gold cannot be forged. After all, it is so malleable that that banging on it will only make it spread out, not harden. Yet over the centuries, jewelers have developed two techniques that are called “forging” even though they are a lot different from the kind of forging that is used to harden steel:

  • Cold forging – The ancient Greeks and Romans made gold coins with this kind of forging, which generally didn’t involve the use of heat. They put a lump of gold into a two-piece die that was made of a harder metal, and then banged on it until the gold inside assumed the shape of a coin. The result was that the gold took on the shape and design of a coin, and that it also became a little harder and more durable. This technique is still used today.
  • Hand forging – This is a slight misnomer, because “hand forging” means creating items of gold jewelry by hand, using a variety of tools that include hammers, chisels, pliers and even drills. When a piece of gold jewelry is described as “hand forged,” that usually means that it has been made by hand by a skilled jeweler, not mass-produced in a factory.

Karat Value and Malleability

Pure 24 karat gold is the softest and most malleable form of gold. In fact, one of the main reasons to add other metals to gold – and thereby create 18k, 10k and other less-pure gold alloys – is to make them less malleable and less prone to abrasion or wear.

Whatever kind of gold jewelry you have, we can analyze it for you quickly and tell you what it is worth. Call us at 800-426-2344, tell us what you have, and we’ll tell you how to move ahead and turn what you have into cash.

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