By Roberta Naas Photography by Jeff Crawford Styling by Terry Lewis| April 1, 2015 |
Watches & Jewelry
Modern watchmakers are crafting unique timepieces using mankind’s most ancient obsession, gold.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: 1. From Rolex, this Oyster Perpetual Datejust ($31,300) is crafted in the brand’s proprietary 18k Everose gold—which has a dark rose hue that won’t fade—and is fitted with an Everose President bracelet. Tourneau Time Dome, The Forum Shops at Caesars, 702-732-8463
2. Bulgari offers this stunning Serpenti watch ($59,000), featuring 18k white gold and a supple white-gold bracelet designed to emulate the look of a serpent, right down to the tapered tail. Bellusso Jewelers, Grand Canal Shoppes at Venetian and Palazzo, 702-650-2988
3. From Omega, this 34mm Ladymatic Co-Axial watch ($38,500), fashioned from 18k yellow gold and featuring a yellow-gold bracelet, houses a self-winding movement with a coaxial escapement for greater stability and precision. Bellagio Las Vegas, 702-733-4004
4. This Ulysse Nardin Classico Lady watch ($29,100) has an 18k rose-gold case and a rose-gold bracelet and is powered by the UN-810 self-winding movement. Horologio, Grand Canal Shoppes at Venetian and Palazzo, 702-733-0016
All gold is not created equal. The nearly 70 percent of the world’s gold that is used to forge fine watches and jewelry is predominantly 18k. Karats are a measure of gold’s purity, determined by multiplying the ratio of pure mass to total mass by 24, so that 18k gold is about 75 percent pure, while 24k gold is almost completely pure—no less than 99.95 percent.
Gold has been considered the ultimate yardstick of wealth since the dawn of civilization. As far back as 3600 BC, gold was mentioned in Egyptian hieroglyphics, and the people of ancient Mesopotamia were among the first to craft gold jewelry. Over time, gold became a type of currency, an artistic medium, and a universal symbol of love in the form of wedding bands. The 16th century saw the creation of the first pocket watches, the earliest personal timepieces, with watchmakers naturally turning to gold to satisfy their affluent clients, thus beginning a rewarding partnership between gold and timekeeping.
In its purest form, gold is soft and malleable—much too soft, in fact, to be crafted into a watch case capable of protecting the intricate movement within. Most fine watches are therefore fashioned from 18k gold, with 25 percent of the case consisting of other metals or alloys—materials that make the watch stronger.
The materials added to the original yellow gold ingot during the melting process can also lend the watch a particular hue. In precious timepieces today, the most popular colors are white gold and several hues of pink or rose gold, with yellow gold, although still used consistently, in less demand.
White gold is created by mixing the gold with white metals, such as palladium or nickel. Adding copper to the mix produces pink, rose, and even red hues, with the more copper added, the richer and deeper the color. Typically, values of 3N and 4N are assigned to pink and rose gold, while 5N indicates a deeper hue. (Some watch brands refer to their 5N pink gold as red gold.)
In addition, some companies develop their own gold hues—green, orange, honey, brown, gray, even purple—by introducing various alloys. Others add special materials not only to achieve a proprietary color, but also to slow or stop the fading of the color or to aid in preventing scratches. To create certain unique shades, such as black, alloys are not part of the coloration process; instead the color is achieved with an external coating by means of electroplating, physical vapor deposition, or controlled oxidation.