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Marketplace
Final Note

Apple’s invented a new way to make 18-karat gold

Kai Ryssdal Mar 11, 2015
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This final note on the way out, in which we mix popular culture, high tech and metallurgy.

The folks at Slate have been poring over Apple’s patent applications for that Apple Watch you may have heard so much about. It turns out, Apple’s invented a new way to make 18-karat gold for it’s top-of-the-line watches.

It’s complicated, and I’m not a scientist, but Apple plans to use something called, “metal matrix composite.” 

To put it another way, Apple is combining gold with durable materials that don’t have much mass, but take up lots of space. That gives it wonderful qualities like lightness and scratch-resistance (normal gold is somewhat soft and prone to damage). And by mass, the final product is still 75 percent gold. But when it’s poured into a mold to make an Apple Watch Edition’s shell, the other, not-so-precious ingredients take up most of the room. Apple gets to use less gold per cubic centimeter and still call it 18-karat. It gets to stretch its gold out further than, say, Rolex would, to make a watch this size and shape.  

It’s still actual 18-karat gold technically, but it lets the company — and this is a quote from its patent filing — use “as little gold as possible.”

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