Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Gold in a Gold Flute

By Steven A. Wasser
President, Verne Q. Powell Flutes

The prices for precious metals have skyrocketed over the past few years.  In this environment it’s easy to get fooled into thinking a flute has more gold than it really does.  So here are some tips on evaluating “gold” flutes:

  •  “Solid Gold” generally means that the flute has been made from some version of karat gold ranging from 10k to 24k.  An item that is 24k karat gold is comprised of 100% gold - 14k contains 58.4% gold.  The rest of the 14k gold alloy could be any combination of precious metals (like silver or palladium) or base metals (like copper or nickel).  The metal content in the alloy often varies by manufacturer.
  •  “Low Karat Alloys” with less than 10k of gold are becoming more common as the price of gold rises.  For Tiffany’s 175th anniversary they introduced a low karat rose gold alloy they have trademarked as “Rubedo .”  This is a growing trend as manufacturers are looking to provide flutists with gold instruments at more reasonable prices.
  •  "Gold Filled” items are essentially laminates, where the outer layer is gold that has been bonded or fused to an inner layer of lesser metal such as silver or brass.  In America, the FTC regulates the labeling of gold filled products.  For example, if the item is 14k gold filled the gold content must be at least 1/20 of the total weight of the item (5%) and can thus be marked, “1/20 14k GF.”
  •  “Gold Clad” is a variation on gold filled.  Unlike “Gold Clad” instruments, Powell’s patented Aurumite® consists of a relatively thick layer of gold which can be on the inside or outside of the tubing.  For example, in Powell’s 14k Aurumite the inner layer of gold represents approximately 22% of the tubing weight and is 58.4% gold.  So 58.4% of 22% is about 13%, which is several times more gold than one would typically find in a gold filled product.
  •   “Gold Plated” instruments have a microscopically thin layer of gold that is electrically or chemically deposited on a sub-strata of a lesser metal, such as sterling silver or nickel silver.  Plating can be measured in microinches or microns.  1 microinch (0.000001”) = .0254 microns, and the number of karats in gold plating can vary.  The FTC defines “heavy gold plate” as at least 2.5 microns which would be 0.0001.”  By comparison the layer of gold in an Aurumite flute is typically a minimum of 0.003,” which means Aurumite has roughly 30 times more gold than a gold plated flute tube.

 Table 1.  Comparison of Gold Content for 14k

14k Metal                               Gold Index
Solid gold                              58.4
Low karat gold (5k)             20.8
Gold clad                               12.8
Gold filled                             2.9
Gold plated                           0.5

If you want gold in your flute for its acoustical properties related to density, then you should look at instruments which have a higher content of gold.  A solid gold flute will be the most content, followed then by an Aurumite 14k. It is generally agreed that the most important metal to affect the sound is that which comes in contact with the vibrating column of air.  If your primary concern is tarnish or aesthetics, then a plated or clad flute is going to be much more economical.  Keep in mind though, that plating can wear off over time, whereas an Aurumite flute tube with gold on the outside is extremely durable.  Powell Flutes has offered Aurumite flutes for over 25 years and have an excellent track record of quality performance.

9K Aurumite Conservatory - Gold on outside
14K Aurumite Custom - Gold on inside
Aurumite Headjoints - Gold on outside, gold on inside
Gold plated Sonare
Custom Powells in gold - Top to bottom of photo: 9K, 14K, 19.5K


  1. What is the difference between gold on the outside versus gold on the inside of the tubing?


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