Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The Color of Gold

What do you think about when someone mentions gold?

Most people make a quick association with wealth and riches - a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or Scrooge McDuck swimming in his vault of gold coins. We make this association even though gold coins aren't so common anymore (nor is the desire to keep all of one's wealth tied up in gold coins or bars).

The next thing people think of is jewelry & watches. Maybe they immediately think of their preference: white gold or yellow gold? They think about the shine and luster. The precious nature of the metal.

Those within the jewelry industry think of gold in terms of penny weights & grams. The fluctuating market price. The design & craftsmanship. The purity: 24k, 18k, 14k.

After several years of photographing jewelry & watches and touching up those pictures in Photoshop, I tend to think of gold in terms of CMYK.

For those not familiar with what CMYK is here is a brief summary: CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow & Black (I know, "black" does not being with the letter "K" but it sure does end with it.) In color printing, all colors are created by blending these four inks together in different proportions. All colors can be expressed in percentages of each ink. For example:

Red: C0% M100% Y100% K0%
Blue: C88% M76% Y0% K0%
Yellow: C7% M0% Y100% K0%
The color of pants you wouldn't be caught dead wearing: C100% M30% Y100% K27%

So what is the CMYK equation for the color of gold? Well that is the hard part. Because gold is shiny and reflective you get a whole range of colors. Look at a gold watch and move it around - you'll notice the color keeps changing. Making that gold look just right is one of the hardest parts about taking pictures of jewelry & watches. Here is a sample of the 256 different colors found in a Corum $20 gold piece watch:


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