First published: 26-11-2015

What do I need to know about buying gold jewellery

Article date: Tue 27th January 2015 03:32 PM
What do I need to know about buying... gold jewellery?
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There are many things that spring to mind when we think of gold - Spandau Ballet, James Bond and, of course, jewellery. Civilisations have always favoured gold, even as far back as Ancient Egyptian times, while the Ancient Greeks gave gold wreaths as trophies to winners of their Olympic Games.

No other metal looks quite as opulent and luxurious as gold, making it a consistently popular choice for people around the world. Most modern gold jewellery is made using alloying - the process of combining gold with a varying percentage of other metals - or rather using gold plating, which has a significantly shinier appearance.

You can also choose a certain tone of gold. White gold is, of course, a much paler shade, as it combines pure gold with white metals like silver. Alternatively, rose gold has a darker shade, closer to pink, creating a really rich colouring that really complements a number of coloured stones.

Whichever tone of gold you're after, you can find some really special jewellery that will suit your look, from earrings and necklaces to bracelets and bangles.

What are carats?

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When we say something is a certain 'carat' gold, that means what percentage of the material is pure gold. Basically, the higher the carat number is, the greater the quantity of pure gold in your jewellery. The most common carats used in gold jewellery are 18 and 9.

The purest gold that is used to make jewellery (and almost as pure as you can get!) is 24 carat. It is also known as 'three nines fine', which refers to a more contemporary method of measuring fineness i.e., how many parts out of a thousand are pure gold. The purest gold ever produced was 999.999 parts of a thousand pure - pretty amazing, right?

Yellow Gold

As we mentioned, there is no one kind of 'gold' when it comes to jewellery, but the colour we frequently just call 'gold' is referred to by jewellers as 'yellow gold'. The majority of gold-coloured jewellery is plated; this tends to be much shinier than pure gold which - though by no means dull - can sometimes have a more matte finish.

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This is, of course, a generalisation; individual pieces may stray from such 'rules'. This charm, for example, has a very shiny finish, but it is nine-carat gold. Therefore, while certain materials can lean towards one look or another, there are always exceptions.

In terms of durability, nine-carat gold is stronger than 18, but neither of them are especially scratch-resistant. Of course, gold plating is a much less expensive option, but has little of the luxury than pure gold can bring.

To the touch, 18 carat gold (be it yellow, white, or rose) tends to be softer than nine carat, because of the lower quantity of other, harder materials combined with the pure gold. This ultimately makes 18 carat gold more vulnerable to scratches.

White gold

White gold jewellery is extremely popular for the way it reflects light, which is why it tends to be combined with similarly light-catching stones like diamonds. This makes it a common choice for engagement rings, as well as bracelets and earrings.

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In the case of white gold earrings, the diamonds or other gemstones are typically embedded into the metal (as these drop earrings demonstrate) to make the most of their combined sparkle. White gold also tends to retain its shine no matter how many carats it is, which is an effect of the amalgamation of gold with other metals.

White gold is typically plated with Rhodium to protect the pure gold content; this is a hypoallergenic material that, while very strong, can also wear down over time. You can, however, get white gold items re-plated so that they always retain their shine.

Rose gold

Rose gold has become much more popular in the 21st century, making it a very contemporary choice for jewellery. It was previously popular during the Victorian era, and has enjoyed a revival in recent years, which means it epitomises the vintage chic style that is so in vogue. It is a really flattering colour for most skin tones, which is why many women are choosing this as their go-to metal for jewellery.

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The appearance of rose gold depends on a number of factors, including what percentage of the material is made up of other substances like copper or silver. This Calvin Klein ring is rose-plated, but demonstrates how rich in colour rose gold jewellery can be. You can take your pick from a huge range of shades, from a very pale pink blush to a really vivid red, so every woman can find the specific tone of rose gold to suit her.

Because rose gold is inherently a composite material, the purest it can be is 18 carat (which means 75% pure gold combined with other substances). 18 carat is one of the most common carats used for making rose gold jewellery, along with 9 and 14.

Multi-coloured gold

Many items of jewellery are made using a combination of either two or all three different golds. Some pieces which feature more than one gold balance the various metals equally, whereas others have one as the more dominant shade. These items can look dynamic, especially if there are also gemstones included in the design.

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This pendant, for example, is made up of both white and yellow gold, as well as being decorated with diamonds across the centre. Paired with a simple chain, such a multi-tonal item can really stand out as part of an outfit, so if you are looking for a piece of gold jewellery to make a statement in what you are wearing, something with a combination of golds could do the trick beautifully.

You can also try a bit of DIY in creating a multi-tonal combination of gold items. This could work particularly well if you like stacking rings or bangles and bracelets; the right mix of styles could look really glamourous.

When it comes to buying gold jewellery, there are so many options in terms of colour and fineness, so every woman can find the perfect item, no matter what style you're after or how much you're looking to spend.

What to know when buying gold jewellery | Watch Shop


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