The Boy Has a Solid Gold Sense of Humour

My teen son Stephen has reached that smart ass “aren’t I witty” question and answer phase.

For example if you ask him to put the cat out he replies, “I didn’t know it was on fire!” If I ask him to put the kettle on he says, “I can’t, it’s too small.” For him there is always a smart remark just waiting to be aimed at me. I’m convinced he lies awake planning his reparte for the next day’s exchanges.

At supper the other evening we were discussing a solid silver wine goblet and he remarked, “If it’s solid silver then how do you put the wine in it?”

I admit, I had no witty comeback, no defence against such an inquiring mind so I poured some more wine before resorting to that perennial parental weapon, a mini-lecture:

Bear in mind that the fact that nothing can be 100 percent because there is always a miniscule contaminate or unknown factor – and that’s why those chemicals only kill 99.99 percent of all known germs!

When we refer to something as “solid” as in solid silver or solid gold what we really mean is as pure as possible. Solid is not a reference to whether something is hollow or not. In the case of silver and gold 100 percent pure (solid) would be too soft to be of any practical use.

Pure gold and silver dents, bends and warps with little to no effort so to make the metal more useable other metals or alloys are added in order to give it the desired strength.

Copper, zinc, platinum or germanium and silicone being some of the more common choices. In the case of “rose gold,” for example, it is the copper that gives the gold it’s pinkish glow.

Because other metals are added to gold and silver there are certain standards, or levels of purity that are adhered to. The levels of fineness are conventionally accepted and adhered to worldwide and many countries such as Britain and Continental Europe have laws to enforce those levels.

Sterling silver has a purity of 925 parts per thousand, while much continental and Mexican silver has a purity of 800, meaning that it is 80 percent pure with an added 20 percent of alloys.

To confuse matters there is also Britannia silver which is 95.84 percent pure silver. Though it was briefly a popular standard some 200 years ago, Britannia silver is now something of a rarity because silversmiths really dislike working with such a soft metal and consumers dislike having pieces with such limited versatility.

Similarly, Gold is standardised in carats (ct.), as in 10ct., 12ct., 14ct., and 22ct. This carat level indicates the degree of just how much “solid” or “pure” gold is contained within an item. Pure gold is known as 24ct., therefore, one carat of gold is equivalent to one part gold and 23 parts “other.”

In simpler terms this means that 12ct. is 50 percent pure and 50 percent additives. When the various media report the current price of gold they quote the price per ounce of 24ct. and to those of us who do not deal in gold bullion this figure can give us a distorted idea of the value of our jewellery.

An example of the confusion that the quoted gold prices can create happened just recently; a gentleman brought in a solid gold necklace that he wished to sell. The necklace was nothing out of the ordinary but it weighed in at a hefty 2.8 ounces.

Now we have all heard of gold fetching record prices recently and the gentleman had calculated that if gold is currently around $1,181.50 per ounce then his 2.8 oz. necklace should be $3,308.20.

However, said necklace was 9ct. (37.5 percent pure), not 24ct. So, after accounting for handling and refinery charges, the melt (or scrap) value of his necklace would be in the region of slightly more than $1,000.

To sum it all up; when we say “solid gold” or “solid silver” we mean that something is not electro-plated but as near to being as pure as possible.

To which Stephen replied, “So why doesn’t someone make something which kills the other .09 percent of germs then?”