Gold has captivated mankind since the dawn of time. The Egyptians, the largest users of gold in the ancient world, equated gold with the sun and reserved its use exclusively for pharaohs. Gold jewelry – either purchased for yourself or as a gift – provides a lasting symbol of life’s significant events, emotions and accomplishments.

Gold Purity & Quality Marks

Pure gold, or 24-karat, is generally too soft for use in most jewelry, so gold is alloyed with other metals to increase its strength. In the United States, 14-karat gold is the most common jewelry alloy. Recent guidelines now allow for jewelers to sell gold under 10K, however it is important to note that pieces under 10K contain very little gold and will not have the longevity or quality like pieces over 10K.

When purchasing gold, especially from resellers, always look for a quality mark in the gold jewelry you buy. They will be stamped or engraved with the karatage of the piece. Gold-plated jewelry is often indicated with a “GP” marking. 

Quality Marks on Karat Gold Jewelry

KaratageKarat MarkEuropean MarkPercent Pure Gold
10-karat 10K 417 41.7%
14-karat 14K 585 58.3%
18-karat 18K 750 75.0%
24-karat 24K 999 99.99%

Beyond Yellow: The Gold Alloys

When discussing metals, you'll often hear the term alloy. A metal alloy is a metal made by combining two or more metals, to increase the strength and/or resistance to corrosion of the base metal. The ratio of each component determines the properties of the alloy. Alloys can also create a variety of colors.

White Gold

One of the most popular gold alloys is white gold, and it is an affordable and fashionable white-metal option. White gold is created by alloying gold with nickel or palladium, zinc and copper. White gold alloys are never truly “white” in color, so most white gold jewelry is plated with rhodium, a platinum group metal. White gold jewelry requires a little more extra care during its lifespan, because the rhodium plating may show signs of wear. A simple and quick re-plating at your local jewelry store can easily restore its brilliant white finish. Learn why white gold yellows >

Rose Gold

Fine jewelry customers are having a love affair for rose gold. The beautiful warm blush flatters skin tones. Pink or rose gold is created by alloying gold with copper. Most often, you’ll find 14-karat rose gold jewelry, which is 58.5% pure gold with copper added for color.

Rose gold comes in a variety of shades of pink, that blend well with gemstone colors and white and yellow metals.

Gold-Plated, Gold-Filled and Vermeil

Gold-plated, gold-filled and vermeil jewelry are affordable alternatives to jewelry made completely with karat gold. These pieces have the look of solid gold, but their durability and value are significantly less. These are great options for those wanting to save money or trendy pieces. These gold alternatives are distinguished by minor differences.

Gold-plated is the cheapest alternative, in which a thin layer of gold covers a low-quality base metal, normally copper, brass, through an electroplating process. These pieces will be the quickest to tarnish but vary in price depending on the karatage used.

Vermeil (pronounced “vermay”) is similar to gold-plated, but the base metal is a high-quality silver and true vermeil plating is at least 100 millionths of an inch thick and 10k or higher.

Gold-filled jewelry has a lower-end base metal, like copper or bass, but has the thickest layer of gold, bonded with heat. The piece needs to have at least 5% gold weight to be authentic “gold-filled.”

Thinking About Selling Your Gold Jewelry?

Use our tips for selling gold jewelry  to make sure what you get back in cash is worth parting with jewelry that often represents cherished memories.

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