Q. Is your Jewelry made of pure gold?
A. Technically speaking, only gold with no additives can be
called pure. However, such gold-labeled
"24k"-tends to be too soft to be used in jewelry.
So various metals that act as hardeners, such as silver,
copper, nickel, palladium or zinc, are added to make the
gold suitable for jewelry use. Once you add these other
metals, the entire mixture is called an alloy. Almost all
gold used in jewelry is an alloy.
Q. Is this piece made of solid gold?
A. If you mean is it made entirely of gold, yes. However,
the term "solid" can only be used to describe
pieces of jewelry that are not hollow and are 10k or more in
Q. What does the "k" stamp on this piece of
gold Jewelry mean?
A. The gold used in jewelry is almost always a mixture of
pure gold and other metals. In America, the degree to which
gold has been mixed with other metals is expressed in a unit
called a karat, represented by a "k" on a piece of
jewelry. When gold contains no other metals, it is said to
be 24 karats (24k). Most consumers buy jewelry that is
either 14k-14 parts pure gold and 10 parts other metals- or
18k-which is 18 parts pure gold and six parts other metals.
However, many jewelers are starting to stock gold that is
10k-10 parts pure gold and 14 parts other metals-which is
the lowest fineness allowable for gold jewelry in the U.S.
Q. How do I know that a piece of Jewelry contains the
amount of gold stamped on it?
A. Gold marking is regulated by federal law. Jewelry that
carries a gold content mark must therefore meet certain gold
testing requirements designed to prevent falsification. But
it helps to shop at a reputable place where jewelry is
regularly checked for final peace of mind that the gold
markings are accurate.
Occasionally, you may see a piece of karat gold jewelry
with no marks on it. The absence of a stamp (i.e. 14k or
18k) is perfectly legal because the government does not
require manufacturers to stamp the amount of gold in a piece
of jewelry. If a manufacturer does use a gold mark, federal
law requires that it be accurate and accompanied by a
maker's mark-either the company's initials or registered
trademark. The maker's mark helps in investigation of gold
that falls below the mark.
Most Americans are familiar with gold content expressed
in terms of karats. But if they are buying gold jewelry that
is made in Europe, they will sometimes find gold content
expressed in metric terms, since Europe is on the metric
standard. In Europe, the proportion of gold to other metals
is measured in parts per 1,000. The following are
translations of the most common U.S. karat marks into the
European metric equivalents: 24k=999, 18k=750, 14k=585,
10k is legally the lowest karatage that can be called gold
in the U.S., Great Britain manufactures 9k-gold jewelry
(stamped 333) and Germany has 8k gold (stamped 250).
Be aware that a piece of gold jewelry does not have to
test (assay) to exactly the amount stamped, just very close
to it-three parts per thousand if the piece has no solder (a
goldsmiths' metal "glue" which holds parts
together) and seven parts per thousand if the piece does
Q. What does the "p" stamped on my piece of
Jewelry mean (i.e. 14kp)?
A. While customers often think the "p" stands for
plating, it actually refers to the word "plumb"-a
goldsmiths' term that means the piece is exactly the
Q. Will 10k gold chip or peel?
A. No. Although 10k gold contains less precious metal than
14k or 18k gold, pieces made with this alloy are just as
durable as any other.
Chipping or peeling of gold is only a problem when the
gold is a plating affixed to a base metal. In such cases,
however, the fact that the gold is a plating will be
disclosed as part of the piece's metals markings. This
plating takes the form of either gold electroplate or gold
By the way, the term gold filled, used to describe a
specific form of gold plating, does not, as the term
implies, mean that the item is filled with gold. It refers
to jewelry made of base metal (commonly brass or copper)
covered by sheets of gold bonded to the base by a mechanical
Q. What causes gold to be different colors?
A. While pure gold is a warm yellow, it can be manufactured
in a wide variety of colors-including pink, white, green,
blue or gray-by being mixed with different metals.
For example, when silver and copper are added to pure
gold, it turns yellow. When nickel or palladium (or zinc and
copper) are added, gold turns white. Pure gold combined with
silver, copper and zinc results in green gold. And pink gold
is made when copper is mixed with pure gold.
Q. Is there a difference in color between 18k, 14k and
A. No, but there can be slight differences in color
richness. The more gold a piece contains, the more vivid its
color tends to look. In general, 18k gold has a warmer,
fuller glow than 10k gold. However, some manufacturers can
minimize these differences by carefully adjusting the alloys
used to make their gold jewelry.
Q. What is Black Hills gold?
A. Black Hills gold is gold jewelry manufactured in the
Black Hills of South Dakota. Traditional designs feature a
grapes-and-leaves motif made out of green, rose and yellow
gold. Often the jewelry also has a diamond-cut finish. The
precious metal in Black Hills gold jewelry does not have to
come from South Dakota to be called Black Hills gold.
However, the jewelry must be manufactured there to have this
Q. If my skin turns black underneath my gold jewelry,
does that mean it's not real gold?
A. Your problem is not uncommon, and is known to jewelers as
"gold smudge." It is caused by a chemical reaction
between the piece and the wearer, or from tarnish. While 24k
gold does not tarnish, some alloys will. Both 18k- and
14k-gold jewelry are less likely to cause smudge than 10k,
due to the fact that the higher karatages contain less base
metal. (Some people are even allergic to gold or some
alloys.) Other causes include exposure to makeup, chemicals,
a buildup of soap or lotion and perspiration. Regular
cleaning and careful wear often eliminate the problem.
Buying jewelry with a higher karatage will also help.
Q. Will the finish on this piece wear off?
A. Because the finish on a piece of jewelry is confined to
its surface, there is always the potential for it to show
wear over time, especially with rings which are in constant
contact with your skin and other objects. Finishes are more
likely to last on items such as pendants or earrings, where
there is minimal friction between the piece of jewelry, skin
and clothing. On such jewelry, the finish will last almost
indefinitely. If the finish does start to disappear from the
piece, it can be reapplied, or refinished, by a trained
Q. I bought this chain one month ago and now it has black
marks between the links. Is it defective? Can it be fixed?
A. Sometimes the base metals used to make old jewelry will
oxidize, causing the piece to become darker in color. The
process may speed up if the jewelry comes in contact with
bleaches and perfume that contain potentially corrosive
materials. By the way, oxidation is less likely to occur in
higher karatage pieces because they contain less of the
metals that oxidize. Precious metals-gold, platinum and
silver-do not oxidize.
This is not a permanent condition. Through regular
cleaning and careful wear (i.e. avoiding contact with
chemicals) the problem is controllable.
Q. Can I wear my gold jewelry every day?
A. It is important to choose a piece of gold jewelry that is
consistent with your lifestyle. If you intend to wear a
piece every day, you should steer towards more durable
items. For instance, rope as opposed to herringbone chain
would be a better choice for a person with a very active
Q. What is the best way to care for gold jewelry?
A. Use jewelry cleaner and a soft cloth to clean your gold
jewelry .If you do not have jewelry cleaner, you can use
mild soap and warm water. Never use any harsh cleaners such
as bleach or abrasives. There are also individual ultrasonic
cleaners that are sold to consumers. (Be sure to put no more
than two pieces side by side in the cleaner. The machine's
vibrations may cause items to tumble against each other,
causing scratches.) You can also take your jewelry back to
the store every so often for the jeweler to clean it
To store gold jewelry, wrap each piece separately in a
soft cloth. Lay herringbone chains flat so they do not kink.
Always remember to remove your jewelry before sleeping,
bathing or exercising.
Q. If scratches appear on my jewelry, can they be
A. Yes, scratches can be buffed out of a piece.
Q. If I dent this hollow earring (or bangle) can it be
fixed or is the piece ruined?
A. Gold, although considered a soft metal, can withstand a
reasonable amount of wear and tear. If a piece does suffer a
blow that actually dents it, many times it can be removed by
a trained jeweler, who will usually give you an estimate for
the cost of the repair.
Q, The store down the street sells its gold jewelry by the
gram. How do I know that I am getting good value here?
A. Buying finished gold is not the same as buying gold
bullion. The value of bullion is based primarily on weight
and gold content whereas the value of gold jewelry owes as
much to workmanship and styling as it does to metal content.
Two pieces of gold chain may look nearly identical, but one
may be well crafted and the other poorly made. What's more,
the method of manufacture can make a great difference in the
final price of a piece. Obviously, handmade jewelry will
cost more than machine-made.
Q. Many stores have 50%- to 75%-off sales. Why don't you?
A. Often stores that advertise huge discounts are engaging
in deceptive pricing. To give you the illusion that you are
getting a great bargain on your gold jewelry, they mark it
down substantially from a fictitiously high list price that
the store has never actually charged. Although this practice
violates Federal Trade Commission rules, it is still common.
If you compare these so-called "marked-down"
prices to the everyday non-discounted prices in most
reputable stores, you will usually find the non-discounted
prices are the same or even lower.
Q. I like the look of large gold earrings, but wouldn't
they be too heavy to wear?
A. Jewelry manufacturers are able to produce big, bold
pieces of gold jewelry that are lightweight and very
comfortable to wear. One of the most widely used
manufacturing techniques is die striking (also known as
"stamping"), which can produce highly detailed,
hollow (and hence lightweight) gold jewelry. Electroforming
is another manufacturing process that produces lightweight
Q. Why is electroformed jewelry so expensive compared to
other gold jewelry of the same weight?
A. Electroforming is a very time-consuming process and
requires equipment that costs hundreds of thousands of
dollars. These expenses have to be factored into the
jewelry's final cost. Imagine how much more expensive and
uncomfortable such large pieces would be if they were not
Modern Jeweler, June 1994