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The Engineering Behind Apple Gold

In our last blog post, we wrote about how the new Apple Watch will have a special edition that uses a new type of ultra-strong 18k gold. Here, we’ll take a look at the technical details to see how that’s possible.

According to its patent on the material, Apple’s creation is a metal matrix composite (MMC). An MMC uses one-part metal and one-part other-material (composite) and works like a reinforced skeleton. The different ways of creating “Apple Gold” involve starting with a “ceramic” (a complex mixture of minerals resembling a ceramic-like substance) matrix or base. Liquid gold is used to fill the microscopic cavities of the porous ceramic, and the two become one solid piece after sintering under pressure.

To mass-produce cases for the watch, Apple’s patent indicates they will use a process familiar to jewelers: die-striking. It works under the same principles above, but the ceramic/gold mixture is loaded into a custom die, then stamped and sintered to create a watch casing. Apple’s patent also mentions a MMC that uses gold and diamond particles. By adding a “wetting agent” to the diamond particles, a carbide will form and bind the diamonds and gold together.

On the Vickers hardness scale, 18k gold scores between 85 and 230 Hv (depending on the impurities). Apple Gold is estimated to nearly double this at 400 Hv. This advancement in the refining industry could have major implications for the jewelry industry in the future. It should have an immediate effect in the watch sector. Although the Apple Watch hasn’t been released, the 18k gold edition will sell for $10,000-$17,000! Will luxury watchmakers like Rolex, Montblanc, and others be ready for the competition?

Learn more about Apple’s gold patent here.

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