The Golds are the ruling class, the hereditary nobility. Most of them are descended from senior house servants of the elves at the time of the Fall of the Elven Empire who were in a position to take over from their departed masters.
Golds are divided into High Golds (Countygolds and above, and sometimes by extension their immediate families, particularly their heirs), Localgolds, and Golds who have no demesne (including the relatives of High Golds). The latter get the title "Gold" by courtesy.
The ruler of a county, province or realm gets the corresponding title Countygold, Provincegold or Realmgold. Empiregold was the title for the head of the Elven Empire. The holder of the title is the elected head of the family which has been granted that demesne (though the Realmgold of Koskant is elected by the Provincegolds from among themselves). The Realmgold confirms the holding of a demesne, and can also retract it, either from the individual who holds it (necessitating the appointment of a new head of family) or even from the family as a whole. The Realmgold can also attaint a person from Gold rank, reducing them to the Silver class. These drastic steps are taken only for outright treason, extreme corruption or other serious crimes such as murder.
To be regarded as a Gold, you must be at least the fifth-generation descendant (great-great-grandchild) of the head of a family, and claim that family as yours. This gives you the right to vote for the next head of the family, who will usually be the previous head's designated heir, but need not be.
Golds at adulthood become voting members of the house in which they are most closely related to a current or past head. If equally close to two, they may choose.
They wear discs of gold with the family crest marked with the personal crest of the relevant relative (unless they are the head), opposite their own personal crests. Also may wear smaller discs indicating links to other heads of families. Small dot for each generation.
Popular puzzle game: given fictional crests, who is related to whom and how? Has spawned a kind of alternate-world fiction.
Golds who are neither heirs nor holders of the demesne take the estate name prefixed by "of" as their name of affiliation. Heirs take the estate name with no "of" and the demesne name with an "of" when being introduced as heir; the holder of the demesne takes the demesne name with no "of". For example, Robust of Hollowtrees (non-holder); Courtesy Hollowtrees of Westcoast (heir); Courteous Westcoast (the Provincegold).
The title of Honour Gold existed in the past, but it has fallen into disrepute, at least in Koskant. Equivalent to a knighthood, it lasted only for the lifetime of the holder (not being passed to his or her descendants) and was granted by the Realmgold. Cash-strapped Realmgolds began selling the title, leading to a classic early political cartoon in which the then Realmgold is saying to a fat merchant, "It's very simple: you give me the gold, and I give you the honour". This tarnished the value of the title and it fell into disuse.