In this ultimate gold jewelry guide, I’m going to condense my knowledge, research, and vast fashion experience and help you make an informed gold accessory buying decision.
Having the joy of five sisters makes anniversaries like Christmas a wonderful, but expensive yearly shopping reality.
In fact, I’ve bought nearly every type of jewelry which eventually led me to become somehow a sought-after friend zone authority even before I became a jewelry writer.
This definitive jewelry gold guide is a testimony, albeit I’m going to make it a hopefully easy, fun, and useful read for any interested gold jewelry consumer like you.
What you are going to discover:
- Gold Jewelry Finishes Demystified
- Karat & Purity Finally Explained (Table)
- Gold Jewelry Stamp Meaning (Chart)
- Real Gold vs Gold Mixes (Chart)
- Different Gold Colors Brief Guide (Chart)
Gold Jewelry Finishes Explained (Karat)
The precious gold metal commonly found beneath the earth’s surface and sometimes above water streams is usually mined before being processed, designed, and eventually sold to you as a gold wedding ring or long strand chain gold, and so on.
The gold finish, however, exists in variations worth knowing before you hit the offline or online jeweler to make someone or yourself happy by gifting him or her a surprise gold promise ring.
Gold Purity And Karat Defined
From solid gold to real gold and other similar definitions of accurately describing the precious metal gold, it is hard to know and trust what is what, unless you are fully aware of the distinguishing elements that count.
Let’s resolve and define gold purity:
Gold Purity & Karat Table
|Types of Gold*||Karat (K) And Purity (%)|
|Fine Gold||24K – 100%|
|Solid Gold||224K – 91.6%|
|Solid Gold||18K – 75%|
|Solid Gold||14K – 58.3%|
|Gold||12K – 50%|
|Gold||10K – 41.6%|
|Gold||9K – 37.5%|
|Source:Litawear.com, *Internal definition depending on the metal gold purity|
The table illustrates clearly the correlation between the gold type and the purity in the percentage of that gold measured in Karatage (letter K), not to be confused with diamond carat standard (letter C).
How Is Gold Measured?
Gold is measured in the Karatage unit K known as Karat whereby 24 parts equal 100% gold purity. This unit, therefore, gives us the exact amount of gold in any given metal containing gold. 24K gold is therefore pure gold and 9K (is a metal containing only 37.5% gold, the rest are other non-gold metals).
Stamping & Gold Karat Regulation
In the United States of America and many other parts of the world, this gold standard measurement is mandatory for jewelry designers and jewelers to engrave or communicate it clearly to consumers beforehand (Source).
Misrepresentation of the gold value inside a jewelry piece is illegal and may lead to undesired consequences for the seller while the consumer is protected.
Gold Karat & Value
Moreover, the gold purity and karat mean that the higher the percentage of gold parts in any given necklace lariat, ring, or band – the more expensive the piece is usually going to be. Conversely, the lower the karat of the accessory, the less the gold-based item costs.
Gold Purity Stamp Meaning
Instead of writing the entire purity of a gold-finished ring, jewelers have created universal short hallmarks to identify the karat associated with a piece.
|Gold Stamp||Purity (in Karat, K)|
The higher the gold stamping in any given jewelry found, for example, 999 engraved inside a ring or pendant necklace, the better the gold quality measured in karatage (K) is.
For example in our gold marking chart above, 999 equals 24K or 99% gold purity, which translates into solid, yellow gold jewelry.
This is still true for 990 engraved stamp whereas a 750 or 585 hallmark indicate only 75%, respectively 58.5% gold fineness per thousand.
What 585 Mean On Jewelry
A 585 gold stamping means it is a quite common everyday standard mark (millennial marking) in gold jewelry grading. It’s comparatively good precious metal jewelry of high value that can be pawned since the majority of the accessory contains real gold and the rest can be silver, platinum, copper, and so forth.
By the way, a 100% gold purity is practically non-existent because the purest form of gold is extremely bendable and won’t survive any gold metal design.
Let alone wear. Therefore, it is usually mixed into a gold alloy of different materials that go with the actual fine gold metal ranging from gold-filled collars to gold-plated bracelets and so much more style and types of accessories.
What Does 925 Stamp Mean on Gold Jewelry?
A 925 hallmark is a sterling silver symbol indicating that the metal contains 925 fineness out of 1000 or 92.5% sterling silver, layered with a thin gold coat and the rest is typically copper. Therefore a gold ring marked with 925 is not an official gold purity stamp.
It’s not fake gold either, but for the untrained jewelry buyer, may be confusing. Now you know.
The only approved gold stamps by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and therefore official law, are the gold jewelry markings in the above chart list.
Gold Hallmarks USA & International
Besides these gold jewelry stamps, you may find other inscriptions on your precious metal. Especially the UK-based Assay Office Mark that indicates the manufacturing origin of your charm bracelet or other precious gold goods.
In the USA there is no single hallmark system, though an inscribed J is sometimes found.
The Assay Office in the United Kingdom is an old and respected institution of goldsmiths that may resonate with many globally.
However, this English institution is in North America and other places not necessarily obligatory to follow, outside the FTC regulation on jewelry hallmarking of course (purity % and karat metal gold engraving).
Pros and Cons of Gold Jewelry Karats
Benefits of High Gold Karat
The advantage of high gold percentage in any given accessory is the value attached to such an item. The higher, the better. Since real gold is a tradable asset in the world, you can buy it as a jewelry investment or anti-inflation asset, not just for aesthetic reasons. On top of that, pure gold can be an heirloom.
Downsides of High Gold Karat
One real disadvantage of a high karat is obviously the expensive pricing. Fine 24K or even 22K gold is quite pricey and can go into the thousands or even $100.000.
Benefits of Low Karat Gold
While it is still considered gold (markings and stamping provided) low karatage gold chains and other items are inexpensive compared to pure 100% 24K gold jewelry.
Next to that, style and appearance or durability of e.g. 18K, including even 10K gold, are usually good enough for the average Joe and Jill.
Gold Alloy Advantages
Another positive aspect of lower gold purity is that the accessory typically contains other metal strengthening materials like brass metal or 925 sterling silver since solid gold is a yellow, soft material that tends to bend easily. Mixing gold with other metals (alloying) is a common jewelry practice since ancient times.
As long as you maintain a good gold wearing, cleaning, and storage regimen you are on the safe side – for sometimes years and decades or even generations depending on the material´s quality (purity and stamps) mentioned here.
Drawbacks of Low Karat Gold
A real gold jewelry collection is worth more than most metals you can buy to wear or sell. Especially in combination with some other precious metals and gemstones like diamonds, think gold diamond engagement ring setting.
A low gold karat is unable to provide you with an equal evaluation like high karatage accessories, though great designs or rare pieces with a lower purity grading can be valuable to collectors.
Gold Color and Karat Challenges
Another possible drawback with minimum purity is color because the yellow-colored gold comes with the karat and associated purity.
The higher the purity, the more yellowish is a piece of jewelry, though through some metal mixture like electroplating and so on you can alter the natural gold color towards yellow and other desired hues.
Now that you are more knowledgeable in this area, let’s move on to the next important gold grading I usually make before I go out there and purchase that stunning gold choker for one of my sisters or sweet girlfriend.
4 Types of Gold Jewelry Explained (Names & Properties)
Next to karat and purity the one thing you have to know about purchasing gold statement or personalized engagement rings and other fashion or fine jewelry are the various names and qualities associated with.
|Type of Gold||Metal Properties & Qualities|
|Solid Gold||High karat gold up to 100% (24K), most expensive, yellow, hypoallergenic, non-tarnishing|
|Gold Filled||Jeweler’s brass core metal, gold bonded around the item, 14K on average, great quality|
|Gold Vermeil||925 sterling silver base, thick-coated with solid gold, good quality, hypoallergenic|
|Gold Plated||brass or any other metal base, thin gold cover using electroplating, inexpensive|
These four types of gold names with their corresponding properties offer a great overview of gold jewelry description before you buy or sell a bespoke long-strand gold masterpiece. Or for that matter, shop a handmade golden birthstone ring as a platonic or romantic birthday gift.
#1 Solid Gold Briefly
Solid gold means that it is a gold piece that consists of a purity grade of 100% (24K) or 24/24. Generally most expansive gold type metal from all gold varieties and names. Advantages like pawnable, don’t tarnish, suitable heirloom item, and typical real gold yellow shine, or hypoallergenic, but also easily bendable.
#2 Gold Filled Briefly
The second type is copper and zinc (also known as jeweler’s brass) core metal that is bonded with solid gold of typically 14-karat. This gives gold-filled (GF) metal jewelry still on average that golden, yellowish appearance, minus the downside of softness, but strength, lower price, hypoallergenic.
#3 Gold Vermeil Briefly
The third gold type vermeil is based on a sterling silver (925) core, then a thick gold layer of 2.5 micron (the unit of material length/depth). These properties increase the durability as well as the jewelry quality concerning color, skin irritations (hypoallergenic) at a lower price, but lesser overall value than solid gold or gold-filled-made accessory.
#4 Gold Plated Briefly
The last type of gold refers to plated-gold that has the least purity in comparison to the other 3 (solid, filled, vermeil gold). Affordable brass or any other metal base is used and on top dipped into an electroplating solution that thinly covers the metal with gold. It’s cheap, not as durable, may cause skin allergies sometimes.
Pros and Cons of Plated vs Vermeil vs Filled vs Solid Gold
In general, all four gold types have their place in the jewelry industry since consumers have different tastes, occasions, and budgets.
Cheap Gold vs High Priced
Even regarding gold-plated necklaces for example there is a benefit, e.g. for one-time or irregular use like a special anniversary or if you simply gift yourself with an inexpensive customized gold layered jewelry set.
Though may tarnish and doesn’t last long compared to solid, filled, or vermeil gold.
Not everyone can afford a Van Cleef & Arpels 24K fine gold engagement ring in the range of $10.000 and no one should be forced into one in the name of love.
This isn’t love, if you don’t have a deep pocket, it’s gold-digging. Though what do people do for love?
Midrange Gold vs Cheap or Expensive Gold Jewelry
Vermeil and gold-filled are really of great high quality while at the same time budget-friendly for most of us consumers as well as possessing the positive health attributes (hypoallergenic), necessary durability, and easier maintenance overtime.
One caveat iof all four types of the precious metal gold is the fact that it can darken over time. Whereby the higher the karatage the longer it takes until this chemical process occur however with proper cleaning and storage you can delay or prevent the negative outcome.
Now we’ve nearly covered all key aspects of gold types for making an informed gold jewelry buying decision.
The last step is to quickly explore the top jewelry colors most associated with gold today. If you think yellow is the only gold color out there, far from it.
Gold Types by Color
|Gold Name By Color||Color, Properties, Meaning|
|Yellow Gold||Yellow – 14K-24K Purity, Luxury|
|Rose Gold||Rosé – 14K Purity, Prosperity|
|White Gold||Yellow/white – 14K-18K Purity, Elegance|
|Green Gold||Green – 14K Gold, Extravagance|
|Blue Gold||Blue – 14Kk Gold, Success|
- Yellow Gold Color Briefly Explained
From 14-karat to 18K and up to 24K purity the typical yellow-gold hue of jewelry is labeled yellow gold due to its coloration. Though depending on light, material, and, processing even 10K may appear as gold yellow. This metal color type and karat purity correspond with high intrinsic and perceived value simultaneously.
- Rose Gold Color Briefly Explained
A piece of rose-colored gold jewelry typically consists of a copper-silver-gold mixture (alloy). It is considered gold, because of the metal properties of 75% solid gold with the rest being copper and silver. Rose gold is today a popular wedding ring for couples as well as a feminine accessory gift.
- White Gold Briefly Explained
The white gold color is a result of combining real gold (75% purity usually), with zinc and nickel (25%) to give it that platinum color look. Since pure platinum is more expensive than white gold alloy, white-gold jewelry is now very popular in the fashion industry and with consumers alike.
- Green Gold Color Briefly Explained
Through a process of mixing gold (usually 14K-18-Karat) with silver, zinc, and cadmium, green-gold color jewelry chains, rings, bands, and more are created. The distinct look combined with relatively high-quality gold properties while not being too expensive makes green gold attractive.
- Blue Gold Color Briefly Explained
One of the rarest gold colors is blue gold made from real gold and the metal indium or gallium. Giving it its unique blueish hue whereby the gold purity is around 14K, though higher quality blue gold alloys mixed with rhodium and gold (20K) can be obtained. Blue gold is not as widespread as the other colors.
Pros and Cons of Gold Colors
There you have it 5 gold types by colors starting with the ancient old timeless yellow to luxurious rosé and lavish white, then finally unique green or rare blue gold.
All with their very own psychological color meaning from sophisticated to opulence.
Though metalsmiths and jewelry designers around the globe are testing new gold colors, forms, and designs, these are the most popular with buyers across the board currently.
These 5 common gold colors offer distinct surfaces from awesome white gold necklaces to eye-catching green gold earrings types – for every taste, budget, and occasion.
Therefore, this time there is no real downside since everyone is catered to. Even my five sisters and my girlfriend who are all picky should be happy about this concise gold jewelry guide.
Which Type of Gold Is Best? (Conclusion)
The question of which type of gold is best can be only answered in a way that if you are looking to impress get solid, 24K, expensive yellow gold. Whereas if you want to express your current mood buy inexpensive gold-plated jewelry and if you like to combine quality, style, and budget pick vermeil or gold-filled jewelry.