It is common practice for jewelers and goldsmiths to mix gold with other metals. Doing so can greatly alter the feel, color, and durability of the gold. However, these sorts of gold alloys don’t just occur in the workshop. They can occur in nature as well.
Electrum is an ancient gold alloy that was discovered thousands of years ago. Electrum is made mostly of gold and silver, but often contains smaller amounts of other metals, such as copper, iron, or palladium. Because the precise mixture of metals varies between deposits of electrum, the color also varies. Usually, electrum looks pale yellow or whitish yellow. This compelled ancient people to refer to it as “white gold,” although no modern white gold jewelry has the same composition as natural electrum.
Electrum is famous for being what most historians believe to be the metal of choice for the very first coins. These were stamped in Lydia (modern day Turkey) around 600 B.C.E. Electrum made for a rather good coin. It contained a fair amount of gold, but was sturdy enough to withstand handling and circulation. Thanks to electrum, we now have the concept of the modern coin.
As a B2B metal refiner, Manhattan Gold & Silver doesn’t see much electrum come our way. But, if you have a sample, we’d be delighted to take a look!