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Precious Metal Buying Guide

Gold

Gold has been one of mankind's most revered substances since the beginning of time. The legends and myths surrounding gold are legendary and for many ancient civilizations, only the most powerful were permitted to wear it.

Today though, the glamour and beauty of gold, while remaining as desirable as ever, are far more democratic.

An enduring element found naturally in a distinct yellow color, gold is resistant to rust, tarnish, and corrosion. Although it is very strong, it is also the most malleable of all precious metals.

 

Purity

Pure gold is known as 24K gold, but most jewellery is made from either 18K gold, 14K gold or 10K gold. This is because pure gold is too soft for everyday wear, so it is alloyed with a mixture of metals like silver, copper, nickel, and zinc to give it strength and durability.

Karatage, denoted by a number followed by "k" indicates the purity, or how much gold there is in the metal in a piece of jewellery. It is expressed in 24ths, making 24k gold, 100% gold. 18k gold is composed of 75% gold, and 14k gold is composed of 58.3% gold and 41.7% of other metals.

The following shows the Karatage preferred for jewellery:

  • 24 karat Gold equals 100% pure Gold -too soft for jewellery
  • 22 karat Gold equals 91.7% Gold - still too soft for jewellery, but popular in certain parts of the world.
  • 18k Gold equals 75% Gold - very popular for higher end jewellery, good balance of strength and value
  • 14 karat Gold equals 58.3% Gold - extremely popular for jewellery. Good balance of durability and value.
  • 12 karat Gold equals 50% Gold - not used for jewellery
  • 10 karat Gold equals 41.7% Gold - lowest Gold content that can be legally marked as Gold. Not acceptable for jewellery

Sometimes, gold of a lower karatage is plated in higher-karat gold to enhance its colour. This is perfectly acceptable as long as the jeweller discloses this fact and you pay a fair price. Keep in mind that gold plating will wear off over time and your jewellery may need to be re-plated.

To determine the karatage of a particular piece of jewellery, look for the quality mark. Generally, pieces will either bear the stamp of their karatage based on the U.S. or European system. The U.S. system uses karat designations (24K, 18K, 14K, 10K, etc.) Europe uses number designations which correspond to the percentage of gold content. For instance, 10K is marked "417" for 41.7% gold; 14K is marked "585" for 58.5% gold; 18K is marked "750" for 75% gold, etc.

Colour

The colour of gold is determined by two factors:

  • The type of metal alloys included
  • The percentage of each metal alloy

While yellow gold is still probably the most popular colour of gold, by mixing gold with other alloys, jewellers can create stunning golden shades. White gold, pink gold, rose gold, orange gold and even green gold are just some of the many colours of gold.

Yellow Gold

Gold has a warm yellow colour in its purest form. Even when it is alloyed with other metals, such as  copper with a red hue, and silver featuring a green hue, an expert mixture will retain its signature warmth.The richness of the Gold colour is directly affected by the percentage of Gold in its alloys: therefore, 18k Gold has a richer Gold colour than 14k Gold.

White Gold

A silvery white character is what makes white gold jewellery so appealing. In order to make the gold white, it is combined with metal alloys that are white in nature and plated with an extremely hard element called rhodium. Although strong, rhodium may wear away over time. Replating is a simple process that can be done to restore whiteness to your jewellery

White Gold with Black Rhodium

Black rhodium is plated to white gold creating a rich black appearance that is extremely hard and strong. As with traditional white rhodium, black rhodium may wear away over time. Replating will restore your jewellery’s black finish.

Rose Gold

The beautiful pink hue of rose gold jewellery is created by using a copper alloy. The overall percentages of metal alloys is the same for rose gold as it is for yellow or white, but there is just a different mixture of alloys used.

BIS Hallmarking & Certification

Hallmarking of gold jewellery is on a voluntary basis under the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986, in accordance with the Vienna Convention’s international criteria on hallmarking.  

A Hallmark consists of five components -

  1. The BIS Mark
  2. The fineness number (corresponding to given Karatage)
  3. The Assaying and Hallmarking Centre's mark
  4. The  jeweller's mark
  5. The year of marking denoted by a code letter and decided by BIS (e.g. the code letter 'A' was approved by BIS for the year 2000, 'B' being used for the year 2001 and 'C' for 2002).

The marking is done either using punches or laser marking machine.

The BIS hallmark, a mark of conformity widely accepted by the consumer bestows the additional confidence to the consumer on the purity of gold jewellery.

A jeweller desirous of obtaining a license can apply to the BIS for use of the Hallmark on their jewellery. After registration, BIS officials conduct a preliminary inspection for verification of retailing/manufacturing premises, testing facilities and competence of testing personnel. A sample is drawn from the jeweller’s retail/manufacturing premises for independent testing. Based on a satisfactory preliminary inspection report and test report of the sample drawn during inspection, a license is granted to the jeweller.

Once licensed, the jeweller has to follow a BIS approved scheme of testing and inspection on a continuing basis to confirm the homogeneity and purity of the gold jewellery offered for hallmarking.

A BIS certified jeweller should register with any of the BIS recognized Assaying and Hallmarking Centres to have his jewellery hallmarked.

BIS maintains surveillance on certified jewellers at a defined periodicity. Market surveillance involves collection of hallmarked gold jewellery from licensee's retail outlet/manufacturing premises and having it tested for conformity in BIS recognized Hallmarking Centre.

Deviations in degree of purity of fine metal and observance of operations not in conformance to the system may result in cancellation of BIS license, and invoke legal proceedings for penalties under the BIS Act, Rules and Regulations.

The principal objective of assaying and hallmarking is to protect a consumer against victimization of irregular gold quality.

Price of Gold Jewelry

In addition to the karat weight and market value of gold, several other factors determine the price of Gold jewellery. These factors include, but are not limited to, total weight of the jewellery, design and construction, and ornamental detailing such as engraving and the finish of the metal. Although nearly all Gold jewelry today is made with the help of special machines, some hand work is almost always involved, and the more hand work that is involved, the higher the price.

Care

If treated carefully, the gold jewelry item you purchase today could last a lifetime and might even be handed down to future generations. So here are some tips that will help preserve the beauty of your gold jewelry.

First of all, gold is lasting and durable but can get scratched or dented if treated roughly. This is particularly true of items worn on the hands like rings and bracelets that are prone to a lot of knocks. So remove these pieces before any type of strenuous activity.

Second, beware of chemicals. Gold's worst enemy is chlorine. Repeated exposure can weaken gold's structure, eventually leading to breakage. So keep your gold jewelry away from chlorinated cleaning products and out of swimming pools and jacuzzis.

On a related note, acids, abrasives and other harsh chemicals found in some common household cleaning solutions can weaken your jewelry or damage its finish. So it's best to cover up rings and bracelets with rubber gloves while doing heavy-duty cleaning. Or better yet, take them off altogether.

Gold can lose its luster over time if repeatedly exposed to dust, moisture, perspiration and makeup. So make sure to clean your jewelry regularly. You can use a cleaning solution of sudsy, lukewarm water, or bring it to your local jeweler and have it professionally steam-cleaned. After cleaning and rinsing, always dry and polish jewelry with a chamois or soft cloth to avoid scratches and bring out its shine.

Proper storage is as important as cleaning. Protect your gold jewelry by storing it safely in a jewelry box or keeping it wrapped in a soft cloth when not being worn. Furthermore, keeping pieces stored separately will prevent them from getting tangled or scratching one another.

Finally, always inspect your gold jewelry for weakness or damage and bring it to a professional jeweler you trust for immediate repair. Pay particular attention to clasps (to ensure they catch easily but are still secure); prongs (to ensure they haven't cracked, bent or loosened, which could cause the stone to fall out); bracelet and neckchain links (to ensure they don't kink or bend); pin backs and earring posts (to see if they are bent or loose); and wedding bands, pendants and charms (dangling pieces and items worn every day for a long period of time) are subject to wear and can thin out and eventually break. Your jeweler will be able to handle these and many other repair jobs and ultimately restore your gold jewelry for you.

Platinum 

Called the "King of Metals", platinum is a very heavy (nearly twice the weight of gold), silver-white metal that is very ductile. Although it is a soft metal, platinum is not easily scratched, never tarnishes, and is very strong and durable. It is the strongest precious metal used in jewellery, and has good resistance to corrosion and chemical attack.

Platinum is also the only precious metal used in fine jewellery that is up to 95 percent pure. Small amounts of iridium and ruthenium are commonly added to it, to give it a harder, stronger alloy that retains the advantages of pure platinum.

 Platinum's subtle beauty and its tendency to not add colour of its own, enhances a diamond's natural brilliance and fire, making it an excellent metal for diamond jewellery settings. It does not change shape or wear away so precious stones are held firmly and securely.

Because of its purity, platinum is naturally hypoallergenic, a plus for people with sensitive skin or allergies to certain metals.

Today, platinum is more valuable than gold. Although it is used in many industrial applications, including the automotive industry, platinum jewellery consistently commands higher prices because of its rarity.

Buying Guide

When judging the value of platinum jewellery, always ensure that the material is indeed platinum (and not another metal, such as white gold) by checking for the amount of platinum content on the back of the piece. Platinum content is usually marked as "950Pt", "950 Plat", or "Plat". In the United States, in order to be marked "Platinum" or "Plat", a piece of jewellery must contain at least 95% platinum

Sizing platinum rings is difficult. The great amount of heat necessary to work with platinum is not practical for local jewellers to work with. What they do instead is use a 14K white solder, which turns into a black line on the bottom of a ring. The best way to size a platinum ring is by using modern laser technology, which only a handful of companies offer directly to consumers.

Platinum and White Gold

Platinum is usually compared to white gold in jewellery. Both appear the same, with a silver metallic look that shines more than yellow gold. However there are some major differences between the two.

Platinum is naturally white, with purity of 95%. White gold, which is typically either 75% or 58.5% gold, is then rhodium plated to provide a white finish.  The thin plating usually needs to be replaced over time to maintain its white colour.

Platinum is not susceptible to problems with stress, corrosion or stress cracking, as can be the case with white gold. (This problem mainly applies to prong settings etc.)

Platinum is denser than gold, so an identical ring made in platinum rather than 14kt gold would be around 60% heavier and 40% heavier than a ring made in 18kt gold.

Platinum’s rarity means that its price is invariably higher than that of gold.

The process of making a piece of platinum jewellery also requires a higher level of craftsmanship.

So what should you purchase?

For high wear items like rings and bracelets, or items that will be worn daily, platinum is the better choice.

For all-white gold and fashion jewellery like a bracelet or necklace, then rhodium plating will actually be best, as it will look very white and most likely never need to be re-plated.

For two tone wedding rings, we strongly suggest a platinum + yellow gold combination. It will be more expensive to size, but will not require additional rhodium plating or much maintenance.

Care

Platinum is very easy to care for.

Soaking platinum in a mild solution of soap and warm water and gently scrubbing it with a soft-bristled brush is usually all that is required to maintain the metal's lustre.

While it is the strongest of jewellery metals, platinum can scratch. However, the metal is only displaced, not lost Many people prefer the patina of wear unique to platinum. Have your platinum jewellery polished if you are interested in maintaining a high shine. In the mean time, buffing with a soft cloth can give your jewellery renewed lustre.

Look for a qualified jeweller or platinum trained bench worker for all adjustments, resizing, polishing and cleaning.

As with any piece of jewellery, avoid wearing it when doing housework or gardening. It is also advisable not to handle bleach or harsh chemicals when wearing your jewellery. Although they won’t hurt the platinum, chemicals may discolour diamonds or gemstones.

Avoid placing your platinum jewellery with other pieces that can scratch it. Store pieces separately, in a jewellery box or chamois bag.