What Should I Consider When Buying Gold Jewelry?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Buying gold jewelry can be a good experience, but it often requires some thought. Gold has different grades and is rated in purity by karat (k) measurement. Generally, the highest grade available is 24 karat, but many people prefer buying jewelry that is rated at 14 karats.

Pair of gold rings.
Pair of gold rings.

Many wonder why someone would go with the cheaper and technically less pure gold when buying jewelry, but the answer is actually relatively simple. Gold is a very soft metal, and the purer it is, the softer it is. The last thing a person wants is to purchase pieces that are not going to be durable, since gold is expensive.

A woman wearing gold earrings.
A woman wearing gold earrings.

This is especially the case when a person is buying gold jewelry that might be used for a lifetime, like in a wedding ring or engagement ring. In general, 24 karat gold is simply too soft to use, and it would be prone to bending, scarring, or even breaking. On the other hand, a small necklace that will be worn only occasionally might be made of 24 karat gold, since it won't' experience the same wear and tear.

A person putting on a gold ring.
A person putting on a gold ring.

For even greater durability, 10 karat gold is also available, meaning that the jewelry is almost 50% gold and has other metals bonded to it to keep it stronger. This level of purity can be a good choice for those who cannot afford much, since it is almost always less expensive than 14k gold.

White gold rings.
White gold rings.

One thing to bear in mind when buying gold jewelry of any karat measurement is the weight of the object. Some rings, bracelets, and necklaces may be hollow. Hollow jewelry tends to be less durable and is likely to be less expensive, although it may be harder to repair if it is bent and could end up with holes in it. Technically, a jeweler should inform the buyer if a piece is hollow, and if the consumer suspects that it might be, he certainly should ask. Hollow jewelry can have some advantages; especially large earrings, for example, may be more comfortable if they are lighter.

Natural, raw gold is melted and refined before becoming a piece of jewelry.
Natural, raw gold is melted and refined before becoming a piece of jewelry.

Other types of gold jewelry are gold fill, and gold overlay or gold plate. Gold filled jewelry is bonded to other metals, and usually, the layer of gold must be 5% of the total metal. Gold plated or gold overlay are also bonded to another metal, but in this case, the gold content is usually required to be 2.5% of the total weight of the metal.

Buying gold jewelry that contains smaller amounts of gold is certainly less expensive. Shoppers should be wary, however, of the tendency for the gold to wear off if the piece is worn every day. Generally, it is better to invest a little more to have more gold in the ring.

Traditionally, most people think of gold as a yellow colored metal, but additives can be included to change the color. For example, a person could purchase 10k gold in white or gold. A 14k gold piece may be available in white, pink, or yellow. One color may be better suited to the wearer's skin tone than another, and this should be considered when buying gold jewelry.

Most rings are made of a durable 14-karat gold.
Most rings are made of a durable 14-karat gold.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

anon332253

Gold prices rise and fall due to worldwide online gold trading. The value of gold depends on the US dollar value.

anon312248

What does it mean when a gold bar is stamped with a K on it?

anon311776

If 925 is silver, what does 901 mean on gold?

anon12804

Dear sirs

What is the most favorite grade of gold (jewelry, eg. bracelets, necklaces, rings etc) of American (eg. in California)?

anon12574

why does the prices of gold rise and fall?

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