Jeff Clark, Senior Analyst, GoldSilver
Other than perhaps diamonds, no adornment is as beautiful and captivating as pure gold jewelry. Both 22K and 24K gold jewelry are alluring, elegant and magnify the beauty of the wearer. It’s why humans have crafted jewelry from gold for thousands of years. Its innate beauty conjures up feelings of beauty, power and wealth.
It is no stretch to say that one can never go wrong buying a beautiful piece of gold jewelry. It is timeless. Many gold jewels have been passed down as family heirlooms. And while you are probably buying them for their beauty, they also have value as money in times of crisis.
However, there are good and bad ways to buy gold jewelry. For example, many people mistake fashion jewelry for actual gold jewelry. But while fashion jewelry often mimics the look of gold, it doesn't have the heft of real gold. That lack of heft means it’s probably costume jewelry. Real gold jewelry, on the other hand, stands the test of time in the world of fashion.
With this Buyer’s Guide to Gold Jewelry, we hope to help people avoid making mistakes when making their purchase. This guide will help you find the right piece of gold jewelry, whether buying for yourself or as a gift. We also point out the additional advantages you can gain by buying investment-grade gold jewelry. Some of the questions we’ll look to answer in this guide include:
First, some basics…
First, we need to define what the “K” is in these terms. The term “karat” (with a K) refers to the fineness of gold, while the term carat (with a C) refers to the weight of gemstones. So “24-karat gold jewelry” tells you what the purity rating is, while “24-carat gold jewelry” simply tells you how heavy it is (which doesn’t account for impurities). When shopping for jewelry, “karat” is nearly always the implied meaning. (And “carrot” is just a healthy snack we happen to enjoy.)
Karat is symbolized as K or Kt and will be preceded by a purity rating of 10, 12, 14, 18, 22 or 24. In most advanced countries, jewelers are required by law to stamp their gold jewelry with its karat rating.
So what is 24 carat gold? Simply put, the higher the karat, the purer the gold. 24K signifies 99.9 percent purity, the highest you can buy. 24K gold is bright yellow, and its beauty and shine are unmistakable. Gold jewelry stamped 22K is approximately 91 percent pure gold, with the other 9 percent usually consisting of copper, silver or other metals.
As stated above, the purity rating ranges between 10K and 24K. So while the higher karat ratings are the most sought after, you can also buy gold jewelry with less gold. This table shows the gold content per karat:
Since 24K is pure gold, don’t let a dealer try to sell you 25K or 26K gold!
Most “gold” jewelry sold today is 14 karat, meaning only about 58 percent of it is gold. To get the most gold for your money, look for 22K or 24K.
So which is best?
First, a little about this metal. Gold is heavy and it doesn’t tarnish, but it is softer than most other metals. The advantage of this softness is that it makes gold malleable (easy to shape and mold into tiny pieces). Silver jewelry, on the other hand, does tarnish, so it needs more care.
While 24K gold is brilliant in color, it is also warmer-toned than most other jewelry, making it more inviting. And because it contains more gold, 24K jewelry is slightly more valuable than jewelry of the same weight but lesser purity. The disadvantage of 24K gold jewelry is that it can break and is scratched easily. Also, since 24K is pure gold, it is usually a tad more expensive than 22K or 18K.
22K jewelry is a little more durable than 24K since it is mixed with harder metals like copper or silver. 18K and 14K contain even more base metals and are thus even more durable. But since they contain less gold, a discerning eye can pick up the difference.
So this is the primary reason you’ll find more 22K gold jewelry for sale then 24K: it is stronger and more durable.
By the way, the terms yellow, rose, and white gold correspond roughly to the amount of gold content and the type of the other metal that is alloyed (blended) with the gold to make it stronger. The redder the gold, the higher the copper content. The whiter the gold, the higher the silver content. 22K or 24K is yellow gold.
Some people prefer the luster of pure 24K gold, while others may want the greater durability and lower cost of the lower karats. Either way, you’ll want to handle your gold jewelry with care.
If you can’t try the piece on in a store, here are a few guidelines to select the right size. If you’re buying it as a gift, this info can help you identify what might look best on your recipient.
Necklaces for women: These can range anywhere from 10 to 48 inches. Most women’s necklaces are sold in even-inch lengths.
Here are the most common necklace lengths for women and where they fall on the average female body:
Be aware the clasp or connector that holds the necklace together is typically not included in necklace size measurements. A standard clasp is ¾-inch long. Some may be longer, so take this into account when considering the length.
Necklaces for men: These typically range from 18 to 24 inches and are also usually manufactured in even-inch lengths.
Here are the most common necklace lengths for men and where they fall on the average male frame:
Bracelets for women: The standard size for a women’s bracelet is 7-7½ inches. The bracelet will hang between the hand and wrist bone, which fashion experts say is the most attractive position.
For necklaces, use a soft flexible tape measure and wrap closely around your neck. The tape should be snug but not suffocating. If you want a collar or choker, add two inches to your neck measurement (which is considered one size for necklaces).
For bracelets, measure at the broadest part of the wrist (just below the wrist bone), then add about a half inch. This is your approximate bracelet size. If you add more the bracelet will hang lower on the hand; if you add less it’ll be tighter.
If you don’t have a flexible tape measure for a necklace, cut pieces of string in four sizes: 8", 10", 12" and 14". Then try each one on and decide which length is preferred. Keep in mind that multiple lengths can fit one person; different lengths provide a different fashion effect.
Here are the most popular holidays and events for giving gold jewelry as a gift in America and around the world:
The reason gold jewelry can be an ideal gift is that it can be handed down from generation to generation.
Remember, gold lasts forever; it doesn't corrode, tarnish, melt, or rust. It has no time limit. It’ll still be beautiful when your great-grandchildren wear it. Consider that the gold jewelry worn by the women and men of Ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt are still beautiful pieces today!
Most people buy jewelry for its beauty or sentimental value — and over time, this value is all it has. But 22K and 24K gold jewelry contain such a high percentage of gold that they have monetary value as well. If you buy investment-grade gold jewelry, you can inherit other advantages:
Bullion Jewelry™ is simply gold jewelry that is comprised solely of gold and has no other gems or frills. As you probably know, most jewelry pieces today contains other metals, gems or artsy components. The difference can be striking.
The advantage of investment-grade or Bullion Jewelry™ is that it will rise in value commensurate with the price of gold. Since most modern jewelry contains other decorative items, it will not necessarily appreciate with the gold price.
Gold bullion jewelry, on the other hand, will appreciate over time. It will grow in value, since it is more closely tied to the price of gold. Most jewelry today cannot be sold back at its original cost.
With a beautiful piece of gold bullion jewelry, you have not just an alluring adornment that can be enjoyed, but an asset that will become more valuable over time. This type of jewelry is truly an investment.
Investment-grade gold jewelry can offer advantages most people are unaware of…
The catch is, most gold jewelry doesn’t qualify as investment grade. Those stores in the mall sell mostly 14-karat gold—and at premiums two, three and four times the melt value of the gold content. Designer jewelry simply is not a practical or efficient way to store wealth; Tiffany’s won’t buy back your gold necklace at anywhere near what you paid for it.
Investment-grade jewelry, on the other hand, is specifically designed for wearing your wealth, at a reasonable markup, that markup, which should appreciate over time. It’s hard to pass up that advantage.