Wormwood gold - what is it, what is its assay, what does it look like, its origin, composition and value today

Pure Gold In the past, it was impossible to get 999, and the most expensive was considered to be chervonoye or nirovolochnoye. Until now, this name is associated with the highest quality gold. However, this is not quite true. This particular old type of precious metal has some additives in its composition. It is considered impractical and is not used for jewelry purposes.

History of the emergence of Worm Gold. Why it is still considered the purest

Many people still use the term chervonnye or nielloed gold, referring to the native metal, due to ignorance, believing it to be red. What is worm gold really? Blackened metal is an alloy consisting of 900 grams of pure noble metal and 100 grams of ligature per 1,000 weight units.

Chervonnye gold - a metal known since ancient times, as evidenced by the products that have survived to this day and are of historical value.

When a large amount of copper was added to the alloy, the metal acquired a deep red tone when incandescent, due to which it was nicknamed chervonny in Rus times. The other metals do not exhibit this color when incandescent, but on the contrary become pale, sometimes darker.

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Ferrous gold is widely used in the jewelry industry

In Russian times metal was used to make coins. But after the tsarist financial reforms of Peter the Great there was a coin, which was called chervonets. Its original purpose - payment for foreign products. The use of almost pure gold allowed to receive banknotes, which in value could be equaled to foreign coins.

The word chervonny has Old Slavonic roots. It is still used in Ukrainian and means "red.

There are several versions of its origin:

  • According to the first version, the word "chervonny" comes from the Czech language, in which "CZERWONY" means fiery.
  • Another version indicates that the word appeared in the pre-revolutionary period, when Russia began to produce ten-ruble coins (chervontsy). Only high-grade metal in a duet with copper was used to make them.  
  • There is another version of how the word originated. The adjective (chervonny) came from the word (chervit and worm) which indicates a shade of red. The base of the words was the genus worms, which were used to make red paint.

Since the alloy was quite expensive and valuable, the chervonets were often melted down and used in the manufacture of jewelry for members of the nobility. At that time, such precious metal was considered the purest of all known. Today this adjective is used out of habit and ignorance.

Composition and physical and chemical properties of chervonets

The antique metal originally possessed an increased ductility and brittleness, which made it easy to lose its shape, even with a minor impact or exposure. A small amount of components made it possible to preserve the natural properties of gold almost unchanged. Worm Gold, Sample which did not fall below 900, is easy to erase, is so soft that you can easily bite it with your teeth.

Types of gold
Colors of Gold

In most cases, the nielloed metal yellowThe red color appears only when heated, because the impurity fraction is minimal and is not able to significantly affect the tone. The red color appears only when heated. Each craftsman used his own composition for making a scarlet alloy, but the main component was always copper. Additional alloying metals could be:

  • silver;
  • palladium;
  • zinc;
  • aluminum;
  • nickel;
  • cadmium;
  • platinum.
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How Chervon gold differs from modern red gold

The name of the alloy is due to the presence of a slight reddish tone, due to the significant proportion of copper: when heated, the product gets a bright red color. This is how the authenticity of coins could be determined in the past.

When heated to a certain temperature of 750, 585 (583) of the sample, even the colored alloy with high copper content does not turn red, but on the contrary, it turns pale. This means that the modern red precious metal is familiar to Soviet people 583-585 assay, which has a reddish hue, so people call it in red gold. The difference is the percentage of the base metal. But it has nothing to do with the niello precious metal.

How was changing the hallmark of niello gold. Why it is not applicable in jewelry now

The gold grade was constantly changing, but always the content of pure noble metal in relation to the ligature was not less than 90%.

  • During the period of Peter the Great coins corresponded to 986 proof.
  • In the reign of Catherine it was decided to apply 916 sample.
  • Nikolaev imperials were made of 900-proof alloy.
  • USSR gold pieces, which were issued in the 22-25 years of the twentieth century, branded with the number 900.

Nowadays pure nielloed precious metal is not used for coin production or jewelry purposes. This is due to the natural softness and excessive plasticity of high-grade metal. Thanks to the development of different alloys, it has been replaced by a large number of samples with different characteristics. If there was now a chervone gold, it would be matched by the highest proofs.

Alloy 900 gold
Gold of 900 proof

The most popular today is 585 hallmarkcorresponding to 14 caratsaccording to carat system or 56 gilts according to the ancient gilt system introduced by Peter the Great. When the valuation system was changed, the price of items began to be determined not in carats or gold pieces, but on the basis of the value of a gram of pure precious metal. Today at cost is influenced by the price of 999, set by the Central Bank of Russia and the world market.

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Table: Explanation of the metric system of gold assay

SampleFraction of precious metal in pure form, %Carat value

24-karat gold

Definition 24 carats indicates that such a precious metal is of 999th grade. At least 99.5% of gold, the remaining 0.5% comes from an impurity that cannot be separated out. It could have been a devil's gold. Its distinctive feature is its bright yellow hue. However, the purest assay has the lowest density, due to which it is not used for jewelry production. Antique coins, bank ingots, electronics and medical equipment are all uses of this 24-carat precious metal.

22-karat gold

A 22-carat piece consists of 22 parts noble metal and 2 parts impurities. It is quite often used for jewelry. A 22-carat alloy of more than 90% consists of pure gold and can include silver, zinc, nickel, aluminum and other non-precious metals. Their use makes the alloy practical, harder and more durable, which is important in jewelry making. Since chervone gold is more of a technical term today, 22 carat could be called niello by its characteristics.

18-karat gold

The most valuable jewelry alloy is 18-carat gold. This means, that the metal on 75% consists of a precious metal and on 25% of a ligature. The alloy is used to make exquisite pieces and blends well with various stones. These are the highest-carat alloys at present. They are not used for general consumption jewelry. 18k costs much less than 22k or 24k, but is stronger, more durable. A dull golden color is present.

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Gold 18k

Where you can find gold today

Today niello metal is not used by jewelers and is quite fragile. The alloy requires special care and careful handling to avoid damage. This purity cannot be found at a pawnshop or in a jewelry store window.

Museums and exhibitions

The real Wormwood alloy is not in use now, but it can still be found on display in some museums. Individual rare coins that have survived are held by private collectors.


Metal 900, 958 proof is characterized by resistance to corrosion, so it is actively used for industrial purposes. It is used to coat contacts of electrical devices and household appliances. The metal is also used in mechanical engineering.

Jewelry as family heirlooms

In the past, to look luxurious, members of the wealthy class melted chervonets to make jewelry. jewelry. This is how they obtained high-quality, high-caliber jewels. That's why, today, you can find unusual engagement rings or other family jewels made of rare worm-colored precious metal.

Proper care of worms

Like any precious metal, the nielloed metal requires special care:

  • It is important to store such items separately, in a box or box with soft sides;
  • even increased resistance to corrosion does not make it immune. It is best to limit contact with liquids, chemicals;
  • Jewelry made of such metal is fragile, easily deformed, which means you should not wear it every day.

Gold looks flawless if it is cleaned regularly and properly. To do this, it is best to seek the help of a craftsman. But preventive cleaning can also be done at home. Soapy water or a weak solution of salt can be used for this purpose.

Return of jewelry

The complexity of assessing niello gold. How to determine the counterfeit

In the past, to determine the authenticity of monetary units and jewels, it was enough to squeeze them with the teeth. It was believed that it was easy to leave a dental mark on genuine gold. But today this method is not practical because it is so easy to spoil the appearance of the items. All the more so because its price would be quite high.

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This means that it is important to be aware of other gentle methods of detecting fakes. It is important to pay attention to the following:

  • Size and weight - by nature, pure precious metal is quite dense, which means that the pieces are heavy and massive. High-grade metal is never used to make openwork patterns and fragile elements.
  • Sound. When hitting the glass surface of a real precious metal, a clear ringing sound is heard.
  • Odor. The use of a large proportion of pure gold does not allow the impurity to exhibit a characteristic odor. A real piece of jewelry does not have any odor.
  • Reaction to a magnet. A genuine jewel repels or does not react at all to a magnet.

Video: antique worm gold


Subject: Q&A

Is it possible to buy a chervona coin as an investment today?

Opinion of an expert
Anton Yegorov
Financial consultant
Coins of niello alloy, left over from past centuries, are now quite valuable, and gradually their value is only increasing. Therefore, various items of this type of metal can be easily purchased as a means of investment, adding to the home collection of jewelry.

For several generations since the Revolution, our family has kept my great-grandmother's ring. How can we find out if it was made of gold?

Opinion of an expert
Mikhail Petrovich Grishanov
Jeweler, Director of Grishanov & Co.
Jewelry made of nielloed precious metal is a great rarity, it was used mainly for the production of coins. But some family items were passed down from generation to generation and may have survived to the present day. As it appears, chervonnye gold is yellow in color with a slight, barely noticeable reddish hue.

To determine the authenticity of niello alloy you can contact a specialist. In the past, authenticity was checked by heating the item to a certain temperature. In this case, the heated metal was distinguished by a bright red hue.

Where can I see the Tsar's Chervon Gold?

Opinion of an expert
Pribrezhny Gennady Valentinovich
6th class jeweler
Now the authentic nielloed coins, issued during the reign of the Tsar, are in private collections. Occasionally expensive specimens can be seen at museum exhibitions and auctions.
Gold Coins
Gold Coins

What does chervona gold look like?

Opinion of an expert
Mikhail Petrovich Grishanov
Jeweler, Director of Grishanov & Co.
In appearance, the nielloed alloy resembles gold ingots in color as much as possible, but is distinguished by a faint red hue. It is impossible to find more significant external differences. It is worth noting that the products are extremely soft, which makes them quickly and easily deformed.

What kind of gold is this?

Opinion of an expert
Pribrezhny Gennady Valentinovich
6th class jeweler
For a long time, various types of nielloed gold were used, but never the proportion of pure gold in the alloy fell below 90%.

Jeweler's comment

Molokanov N.M.
Molokanov N.M.
Jeweler, experience in jewelry manufacturing 26 years.
Specialists can easily identify genuine precious metal based on the weight, size and density of the pieces. The density of 999 is 19.3 g/cm². Other metals have a lower density, which means that when they are added to a ligature, the original characteristics of the precious metal change. There is a way that you can determine the density at home without using chemicals.

A test tube is needed, water is poured into it, and its level is recorded. A jewel is lowered into the container, and the test tube is weighed. The method has been known since ancient times and can help determine the density with an error of 20-30%.

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