Golden Rules: How To Buy Gold Jewellery

Gold makes for valued and timeless adornments. Whether bought for yourself to mark a special milestone such as a wedding or a birthday, or as a thoughtful gift, gold jewellery is the perfect way to lend importance to any occasion. Its beautiful appearance, cultural significance and inherent value make it treasured by jewellery lovers and investors. Gold never goes out of style, and it is passed down through families to be enjoyed for generations.

Buying when buying something so precious and expensive, care must be taken so as not to get duped into paying more or receiving poor quality, whether in karat or craftsmanship. Buying gold requires some skill and knowledge.

If you are looking to start or add to your collection of gold jewellery, here is what you need to keep in when hitting the stores.

Learn About Gold Purity

Before you start browsing stores and looking at designs, take some time to understand the purity standards that gold is rated by. The value of gold depends on its purity, which is determined based on its ‘karats’ – a measurement for its purity. 24 karat, or 24k gold is entirely pure, meaning that it contains only the element gold in it. Gold with a lower karat is often mixed with other metals to make it more suitable for jewellery (as pure gold is too soft) or change its colour (read all about the different colours of gold) and is generally less valuable as its karat is lowered. 12 karat gold is, therefore, made up of 50% of pure gold. 18 karat gold will be ⅔ gold alloyed with ⅓ of another metal.

Decide Which Karat Is Best For You

Decide Which Karat Is Best For You

Because 24 karat gold is extremely soft, it is easily damaged by way of scratches and nicks, therefore jewellery is usually made in purities of 22 karats and under. Gold that has been alloyed in higher percentages is usually tougher and more resilient than purer varieties. However, it was not the as valuable gold of a higher karat value.

Choose 18 karat gold in jewellery you plan on wearing every day to prevent damage and wear and tear. Wearing jewellery on your hands, such as rings and bracelets, are more likely to experience scuffing and bumps on hard surfaces which can cause damage so 18 karats or lower purities is recommended for everyday use here.

Check The Craftsmanship

Take a close look at how the jewel you are planning to buy has been crafted. Are there scratches or nicks on the surface? Do the clasps and links function smoothly. Try on the jewel to see whether it fits and falls appropriately.

For example, a necklace should not turn awkwardly or flip with movement, and it should be the right length for you. Likewise, dangler earrings should fall face forward and be crafted neatly enough so that the underside does not look unsightly when viewed from behind. Earring posts on screw-back earrings should not be bulky and uncomfortable to wear. Scrutinise the jewellery to make sure stones are set securely and the design is executed artfully.

Checking For Authenticity: What to look for in  India

Goldsmiths could tamper with gold by adding iridium and ruthenium (looks like black dust) to increase its weight. The purity tests for gold are extensive, but most machines used earlier were not calibrated to identify iridium and ruthenium. However, now machines can detect even 0.02% impurities. Look for hallmarks to ensure the gold is authentic. The BIS in India has set standards for gold. To ensure the purity of the gold that you buy, only buy jewellery that has been hallmarked.

However, due to lack of awareness, a lot of the gold jewellery manufactured in India is not hallmarked. A hallmark consists of five components marked using punches or laser marking machines. Even if the jewellery has been hallmarked, get it checked by an independent valuer to be sure of its purity.

What is BISMARK?

The BIS hallmark is a system for hallmarking gold in India. This hallmark gives a guarantee that the purity of the gold jewellery you buy has been checked. The year of making is denoted by a code letter decided by BIS. For example, the letter A is for 2000. The fineness number corresponds to the caratage of the gold laid down by the BIS, as follows:

  • 958 – 23 carats
  • 916 – 22 carats
  • 875 – 21 carats
  • 750 – 18 carats
  • 585 – 14 carats
  • 375 – 9 carats

Therefore, if the fineness number on the hallmark on the piece of jewellery says 958, this means that piece of jewellery has 95.8% gold, which is equivalent to 23 carats. If the fineness number on the hallmark on the piece jewellery is 916, it means that the gold is 91.6% pure, which is equivalent to 22 carats and so on.

Go To A Reputed Store

In India, you may have your favourite local jeweller, but it is always best to buy your jewellery from reputed shops. This is because the jewellery sold by reputed jewellers is almost always hallmarked by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). So you can be sure of the purity of the gold. There isn’t enough awareness of hallmarking in India. Although this is changing, there still aren’t enough hallmarking centres, especially in two-tier cities.

Checking For Authenticity: What To Look For In The US

For those who live in the US, stores such as Zales, Jared’s and Nordstroms are all big brands where you are assured of genuine claims. However, with large brands come big markups and you may want to do some research into independent sellers. If this is the case, here’s how you can avoid getting cheated.

  • Check the jeweller’s credentials. Ask him for certificates to be sure they are qualified and trusted.
  • Shop around at many stores before finalising on a jeweller. Prices can vary significantly from one jeweller to the next.  
  • Check for hallmarking that represents the quality and karat of the gold. It will usually be inscribed on to the back of the jewel is a place that cannot be seen when worn. Ask your seller to show it to you.

Checking The Hallmarking

  • The hallmark will convey the purity of the gold jewel in two ways. It may be represented in karats by the alphabet ‘K’ – for example, 18K, 22K, 24K. Or it could have a number that depicts the purity in a percentage of the amount of gold the piece contains. For example, 8 karat gold would be marked ‘333’, meaning that the percentage of gold is 33.3% (or that it contains one-third part of gold).
  • The metal with which the gold is alloyed will also be marked into the jewellery. ‘PT’ stands for platinum, ‘SS’ for steel and ‘Pd’ for palladium.
  • GF means that the piece is gold filled, whereas ‘GP’ means that the jewel is not made entirely of gold but is only plated with it.
  • Rings usually have their size also added on to their body so don’t get confused if you come across a single or double digit number you are unfamiliar with.

How To Buy Gold Jewellery: Top Tips

Besides the advice above, here are some other tips to keep in mind before hitting the stores to make sure you make a sound purchase.

  • If you are buying an expensive set of jewellery, such as bridal jewellery,  that you will be spending a lot of money on and have even the slightest doubt about the authenticity because of it’s hallmarking or seller, it’s recommended that you get it independently inspected by a trusted and certified jeweller who is not connected to your seller. You usually have to pay for this service.
  • Do some research; have a look online or ask friends with good jewellery knowledge about what is the usual price of gold jewellery within certain karat ranges. Of course, keep in mind making charges vary according to the intricacy of the jewel but this will give you a ballpark idea of what to expect.  
  • Beware of deals and offers that seem too cheap. Gold never loses its demand or value and it is unlikely to be sold under market rate.
  • Check whether the seller you are keen on has added services like customisation of design, exchange offers, cleaning and polishing services, and resizing or adjustment options.  
  • Ask your seller for advice on how to clean the particular jewel you want to buy. Will it need to be done professionally on a regular basis or will you be able to maintain it at home. Read all about cleaning and maintaining gold at home.
  • Check the return policy and warranty before buying any jewellery. You want to make sure that in case you come across any issues with the jewellery your seller will guarantee a fair approach to resolving the problem.

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