In case of the need to describe the color of a crown which is shown as part of an image, which is correct: a golden crown, or a gold crown?
Is it important if it is made of gold or not, but the color is gold?
Most gold crowns are golden, but not all golden crowns are made of gold.
The Collins Cobuild Dictionary shows two meanings for golden:
While they may appear to be fungible, people who choose their words carefully would probably use gold to indicate made of gold and golden to indicate bright yellow in colour.
Elvis Presley sang “Wooden Heart (Muss I Den)” in the 1960 movie G.I. Blues. Here are two relevant lines:
They suggest that even with the ‑en ending, it means “made of wood”, which it wouldn’t in a sentence like “He delivered a wooden performance on opening night.”
Collins Cobuild says “Wooden objects are made of wood”. I agree that that’s how people use it, whether literally (e.g., wooden table and wooden chair) as well as figuratively (wooden performance).
But unlike when wood and wooden are used literally, I don’t think that golden and gold are fungible like that. They’re only sometimes synonyms, which means that they aren’t always interchangeable, merely largely interchangeable. A golden crown is not necessarily a crown made of gold, just a crown the color of gold. But a gold crown is necessarily a crown made of gold.
However, because there is something called “white gold”, an alloy of gold and nickel and which sometimes contains palladium or zinc, a gold crown isn't necessarily yellow. Context should tell the reader or listener whether golden or gold is being used literally or metaphorically.
It seems they’re largely interchangeable. The Corpus of Contemporary American English has 35 records for gold crown and 29 for golden crown. The figures for the British National Corpus are 8 and 6. The Oxford English Dictionary, however, has 6 citations for gold crown and 10 for golden crown. This nGram shows an earlier preference for golden crown, but with little difference apparent from about 1960 onwards.
A coin, rather than royal headwear, will, I suspect, generally be a gold crown rather than a golden crown.