Buying Gold Jewelry? Read This First.

Author Sue Davidson, G.G.
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Date Oct 16, 2014

Buying Gold Jewelry? Read This First.There is a lot you need to know about gold before you first step into a store to buy a piece of jewelry.

There is a big difference between 14k and 18k gold, and knowing that difference will help you buy smarter and ensure that you are getting the quality that you are hoping for.

Here are some of the top things you should know and understand before buying gold jewelry:

"Karat Gold"

For starters, pure gold is too soft to be of much use in jewelry making. Because of this, gold is mixed with other metals so that it can be used to make jewelry. The resulting alloy is known as "karat gold."

Karat is a measure of the proportion of gold used in the alloy and is expressed in parts out of 24. And, we always like to point out that gold Karats are not the same as "carat," which is used to measure the weight of diamonds and gemstones.

Karat as a Percentage

As we know, gold is measured in Karats. Pure gold is 24 Karats, so 24 parts of 24 is 100% pure gold. 18 Karat gold is 18 parts of the 24 actual gold with 6 parts added alloy for strength and durability.

With pure gold being 24 Karats, here are the percentages of the most commonly used gold you'd find in gold jewelry:

  • 18 Karat gold is 18/24th or 75% pure gold.
  • 14 Karat gold is 14/24th or 58.5% pure gold
  • 10 Karat gold is 10/24th or 41.7% pure gold

Karat is usually abbreviated as a K for identification purposes, so 10, 14, or 18 Karat gold is expressed as 10K, 14K, or 18K gold.

Most countries have laws regarding what can be called real gold. For example in US, gold has to be at least 10 Karat to be called "real gold." But, in Australia, Canada and the UK, the minimum is 9 Karats while in Germany it is only 8 Karats. This is important to know before shopping overseas or purchasing a piece of gold jewelry online from an overseas vendor.

Identifying Karat Weight in Gold Jewelry

Solid gold is often stamped or branded, either with its Karat symbol or with the percentage representing the proportion. These stamps are typically found inside a ring or near a clasp.

The stamps for percentage and Karat symbol for gold are expressed as follows:

  • 333 - 8K gold
  • 375 - 9k gold
  • 417 - 10K gold
  • 500 - 12K gold
  • 585 - 14K gold
  • 666 - 16K gold
  • 750 - 18K gold
  • 792 - 19K gold (used in Portugal)
  • 833 - 20K
  • 916 - 22k gold
  • 999 – 24K

Gold & Other Metals

Palladium is a popular alloy to mix with the gold to lessen the yellowness of the metal.

White gold has the same properties as yellow gold except for the color of the alloys it combines with. Even with the whitening alloys in white gold, it still has a slight yellowish appearance because of the percentage of gold in the mix. As a result, pretty much all white gold out in the retail marketplace is rhodium plated.

Rhodium is a member of the platinum group and is among one of the rarest and most costly metals. It plates the white gold to offer the platinum-like finish so widely sought after. This plating wears with time, allowing the yellow of the gold to become visible. When this happens, it would need to be re-plated in order to maintain its original appearance. It's sometimes referred to “re-dipping” and may need to be done every year to three years.

Feeling ready to purchase gold jewelry? Visit any of our five retail stores or make an appointment to take a look at all of our gold jewelry.

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