50 Shades of Gold: A Guide to Buying Gold Jewelry

As a precious metal, gold is likely to keep its value forever, and buying gold, including jewelry, is an investment. Purchasing gold jewelry is a special affair and should be treated as such; knowing how to go about buying these pieces is vital to make sure your jewelry will stand the test of time and be perfectly suited to your requirements. Use the guide below to help you buy with confidence every time.

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Level of Purity


The purity of gold is measured in karats. Twenty-four-karat is pure gold; twelve karats is 50% pure gold, and so on. The higher the karat, the more expensive the piece of jewelry, in the vast majority of cases.

However, when buying jewelry, it is important to be aware that gold is a soft metal, and the purer the piece, in terms of karats, the more liable it will be to sustain damage. Therefore, if you are considering buying an item of jewelry to wear every day, and that is likely to come into frequent contact with hard surfaces – like rings – then you may wish to go for jewelry that is eighteen karats or less to prevent it from getting dented and nicked. You probably won’t need to take this into consideration for items like earrings, for example.

You may also decide to opt for gold-plated jewelry; this is where a base metal is covered with a layer of gold and is usually a cheaper option, although the plating may be prone to cracking or splitting over time. The base metals used are usually steel or brass; however, gold plating that has been added to sterling silver jewelry is also available and is often chosen by those with allergies to other metals: gold plating on a silver base is known as vermeil. Have a look here to see an example of necklaces available in various different karats of gold, as well as gold-plated pieces, and to get an idea of the prices you can expect to pay for the various options.

So, in summary, consider both the level of purity you want alongside practical considerations such as your budget, whether you have, for example, sensitivity to nickel, and how durable the item of jewelry needs to be.

Choose a Color

Yellow, white, or rose gold jewelry can be purchased depending on your preference. Non-yellow gold is usually eighteen karats or less. White gold is made by mixing nickel or palladian with gold; this creates a bright silver hue; white gold is a particularly popular option for engagement rings. Rose gold is also highly sought after and requires the addition of copper.

There is another rarer variety, green gold, which is made by mixing silver with gold; this is the most expensive of the colored versions of gold jewelry. Natural green gold can also be mined but is extremely rare, and most jewelers are unlikely to ever come by it.

Inspect the Markings


All gold jewelry should feature a hallmark that provides information on the purity of its composite metal. This information is usually given in one of two ways: you may see an engraving such as ‘18K’ on the inside of the band of a gold ring, for example, or on the back of an earring, denoting that the item is made up of eighteen karat gold. Alternatively, you may spot a three-digit number, which tells you the purity in a percentage form: ‘585’ would signify that the piece is 58.5% pure gold, which equates to fourteen karat gold.

Additionally, if the jewelry is made of impure alloyed gold, there will be a further marking to reflect this. ‘GP’ designates that the item is gold-plated, ‘Pd’ indicates the presence of palladium, while ‘SS’ stands for stainless steel, and ‘GF’ means gold-filled.

When buying a ring, you may also find an additional set of digits on the inside of the band, which provides the ring size.

Choose a Reputable Dealer

When making such an important (and possibly expensive) purchase, it’s crucial to choose a dealer carefully. If you would like to buy from an independent dealer, research to check their credentials and certification and the level of services and customer care offered: for example, if you’re purchasing a ring or a bracelet, can they resize it if required? Pay careful attention to online reviews from previous customers to see what their experiences were like, too.

Ask potential dealers whether or not they offer a warranty, as this is a really good way of assessing their credibility. Many dealers will also offer some sort of return policy too and check the details of this before purchasing.

If the item you are considering is particularly expensive, then you may want to instruct the services of an independent appraiser, who can assure you of the quality of the jewelry and advise you on its value.

Finally, you could also check the current gold per-ounce price to make sure that you won’t be overpaying for the item you’re considering.

Taking Care of Your Gold Jewelry


To enjoy your jewelry for years to come, it’s vital to take care of it properly. As mentioned above, the higher the karat of gold, the softer, and therefore more liable to damage, your item will be; twenty-four-karat jewelry – especially rings and bracelets – which will frequently come into contact with hard surfaces, should be worn for special occasions rather than daily.

It’s a good idea to remove jewelry before bathing, swimming, using cleaning products or gardening, to prevent its exposure to chemicals; gold-plated items especially can be prone to damage by such.

When not being worn, the jewelry should be carefully stored to ensure it doesn’t get scratched or dented. Wrap items in separate small pieces of cloth if kept in the same box, and prevent necklaces from becoming tangled together.

Occasionally, cleaning your gold jewelry is necessary, although this doesn’t need to be undertaken frequently. You may simply wish to buff items with a soft cloth, to remove grime and restore their shine. Alternatively, you could fill a bowl with warm soapy water and soak the gold jewelry for about fifteen minutes. After this time, simply rinse in clean water and dry each item with a soft cloth.

Every three months, it’s a good idea to deep clean your gold jewelry. To do so, soak the items in a cleaning solution for about three hours; if your jewelry contains precious stones, then check first that this will not cause damage to them. Next, clean each piece with a soft brush, rinse with clean, warm water, and dry with a soft cloth.