Victorian London - Publications - Etiquette and Household Advice Manuals - Cassells Household Guide, New and Revised Edition (4 Vol.) c.1880s [no date] - The Qualities and Values of Gold and Silver

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Volume 1



THE extent to which gold and silver are used, and the variations in their quality and fineness, render it desirable to supply some information on the subject Both these metals are almost invariably mixed with some other of inferior worth called alloy, and the value of them is determined by the amount of alloy. In electro-plating, the pure metal has to be used. For gold coins, what is called standard gold is employed, containing one-twelfth, or two parts in twenty-four, alloy. If, therefore, an ounce of standard gold be divided into twenty-four parts, it contains twenty-two parts of pure gold, and two parts of alloy; and it is called twenty-two carat gold. This is the gold of which English sovereigns and half-sovereigns are coined. Standard silver, of which our silver coinage is made, consists of thirty-seven parts silver and three parts copper. Of this silver, all articles of plate bearing the hall mark are made, no inferior quality being marked. In France the standard is lower, being nine parts silver to one copper, and therefore worth a smaller sum per ounce. In Prussia a still lower standard is adopted, and one-fourth of alloy is allowed. The price of silver varies so greatly that it is impossible to give any exact value. The price at any particular period may, however, easily be ascertained from the quotations in the daily press.
    Silver of an inferior quality is made up into watch. chains and a great many ornaments, and is of less value. In actual practice, silver containing alloy to the extent of one-half or one-third is seldom or never sold by weight, but only in a manufactured form at so much per article. It may be taken for granted that whatever bears an English hall mark is standard silver. These hall marks are explained at page 180. In purchasing silver spoons, forks, and plate generally, more or less is charged over and above the intrinsic value of the metal. The extra charge depends upon circumstances, such as the pattern or the antiquity of the goods. We mention antiquity, because old plate will often sell for more than new.
    In the case of gold the variations are greater. As observed, the ounce is divided into twenty-four parts or carats, of which a certain number are alloy. Articles of jewellery are made of every degree of fineness, and in consequence, what is by courtesy called gold often contains very little of the precious metal. Thus, an ounce of six-carat gold consists of three-fourths alloy, which is practically worthless, and only the one-fourth gold is estimated. To show the difference which may exist, it is only necessary to say that an ounce of so-called gold which contains but one carat of pure gold is worth but 3s. 6d., while an ounce of perfectly pure gold is worth four guineas. We say four guineas, though some tables give Ј4 6s., and others a little more. In fact, the values of gold and silver fluctuate with the state of the market ; hence our prices are only approximate. Very few articles of jewellery are of a higher standard than eighteen carat, or eighteen carats fine, as it is called. Many are fifteen carat, thirteen carat, nine carat, and of even much lower denominations. Articles which are stamped, or hallmarked, bear figures which indicate the number of carats; and in buying rings, &c., which are said to be hall-marked, those figures must be looked to. The gold of an eighteen-carat ring hall-marked is worth double what it would be if only nine carat. As in the case of silver, of course purchasers are charged for manufacture and profit, and be it observed that cheap goods may and do cost as much as the best for making. The following table will, we believe, now be intelligible :

s. d.
1 dwt. of nine-carat gold costs 0 1 7
5 dwt. of nine-carat gold costs 0 7 10
10 dwt. of nine-carat gold costs 0 15 9
15 dwt. of nine-carat gold costs 1 3 7
20 dwt. (1 oz.) of nine-carat gold costs 1 11 6
1 dwt. of twelve-carat gold costs 0 2 1
5 dwt. of twelve-carat gold costs 0 10 6
10 dwt. of twelve-carat gold costs 1 1 0
15 dwt. of twelve-carat gold costs 1 11 6
20 dwt. (1 oz.) of twelve-carat gold costs 2 2 0
1 dwt. of fifteen-carat gold costs 0 2 7
5 dwt. of fifteen-carat gold costs 0 13 1
10 dwt. of fifteen-carat gold costs 1 6 3
15 dwt. of fifteen-carat gold costs 1 19 4
20 dwt. (1 oz.) of fifteen-carat gold costs 2 12 6
1 dwt. of eighteen-carat gold costs 0 3 1
5 dwt. of eighteen-carat gold costs 0 15 9
10 dwt. of eighteen-carat gold costs 1 11 6
15 dwt. of eighteen-carat gold costs 2 7 3
20 dwt. (1 oz.) of eighteen-carat gold costs 3 3 0

Where fractions of a penny, or of farthings, occur, it will be observed that they are not always rigidly exact in the tables. This is an unavoidable evil, and it may be convenient in actual practice to discard farthings and lesser fractions where small quantities are concerned. Thus eighteen-carat gold may be estimated at 3s. 2d. the dwt. ; seventeen-carat gold at 3s. the dwt.; twenty-two carat gold at 3s. 10d. the dwt., &c.

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