What you should know about buying gold jewelry.

It goes without saying that one of the smartest investments in the jewelry industry is gold. Gold exudes luxury and class and signifies financial stability. Gold has captivated mankind since the dawn of time. The Egyptians, the largest users of gold in the ancient world, equated gold with the sun and reserved its use exclusively for pharaohs. Gold jewelry – either purchased for yourself or as a gift – provides a lasting symbol of life’s significant events, emotions and accomplishments.

Tutankhamun treasure

Gold Purity & Quality Marks

Always look for a quality mark in the gold jewelry you buy. Pure gold, or 24-karat, is generally too soft for use in most jewelry, so gold is alloyed with other metals to increase its strength. In the United States, 14-karat gold is the most common jewelry alloy, and nothing less than 10-karat gold can be legally marked or sold as gold jewelry. 

Gold plated jewelry is often indicated with a “GP” marking stamped somewhere on the piece. 

Quality Marks on Karat Gold Jewelry

Karatage Karat Mark European Mark Percent Pure Gold
10-karat 10K 417 41.7%
14-karat 14K 585 58.3%
18-karat 18K 750 75.0%
24-karat 24K 999 99.99%


The “K” stands for karat, which represents the percentage of pure gold in the metal alloy. Because pure gold is very malleable, jewelers mix it with other alloys to make it more durable and harder.

Purity: The higher the karat number, the higher percentage of pure gold exists in the jewelry as shown in the above chart. 10K = 41.7% 14K = 58.5% 18K = 75% 22K = 91.7% 24K = 100%

Cost: The higher the karat, the higher the cost. Price is based on the percentage of pure gold. At Jewelry by Johan, our prices are based on the current market value of gold.

Color: Because pure gold is naturally yellow, the higher the karat, the more yellow the item will be.

Deelytes Jewelry Collection Gold

Durability: The higher the karat, the softer and more scratch-prone the alloy becomes. This is important to consider if you’re setting a gemstone in small prongs that you don’t want to bend easily.


There is no difference. This is an example of how gold attributes are applied differently around the globe. The proper attribute applied to gold is “karat” abbreviated with “k” or “kt.” In countries outside of North America, “carat,” abbreviated “c” or “ct” is used in its place, despite it being incorrect. Carat is, in proper application, a unit of weight that applies to precious stones.


Pure gold is yellow. Needless to say, the higher the karat of gold jewelry, the more yellowish hue it will have.

Beyond Yellow: The Gold Alloys

When discussing metals, you'll often hear the term alloy. A metal alloy is a metal made by combining two or more metals, to increase the strength and/or resistance to corrosion of the base metal. The ratio of each component determines the properties of the alloy. Alloys can also create a variety of colors.


Fine jewelry customers are having a love affair for rose gold. The beautiful warm blush flatters skin tones. Pink or rose gold is created by alloying gold with copper. Most often, you’ll find 14-karat rose gold jewelry, which is 58.5% pure gold with copper added for color. 

Rose gold comes in a variety of shades of pink, that blend well with gemstone colors and white and yellow metals


One of the most popular gold alloys is white gold, and it is an affordable and fashionable white-metal option. White gold is created by alloying gold with nickel or palladium, zinc and copper. White gold alloys are never truly “white” in color, so most white gold jewelry is plated with rhodium, a platinum group metal. White gold jewelry requires a little more extra care during its lifespan, because the rhodium plating may show signs of wear. A simple and quick re-plating at your local jewelry store can easily restore its brilliant white finish.

Green Gold ??

 This is one of the rarest varieties that is made of gold mixed with silver. It comes with a bright greenish yellow hue and compliments green stones like emerald and peridot extremely well. Green gold is mostly produced in labs but is very rare and very expensive. Green gold known as “electrum” can be mined naturally. Only very few jewelers are privileged to see them so this isn’t something you would typically come across when gold shopping.

Green Gold


Gold jewelry is plated with rhodium to make it look whiter, enhance its shine, and to give it a harder surface. Keep in mind, the plating will wear away. It’s recommended to re-plate your jewelry every 1-2 years to keep it looking its best.

Deelytes Jewelry Collection


Sterling silver jewelry is often electroplated with karat gold. When the thickness of the karat gold plating is at least 100 millionths of an inch thick, it is referred to as “vermeil,” pronounced “vermay.” Vermeil jewelry is an affordable alternative to jewelry made completely with karat gold. Items meeting this definition may be stamped with standard sterling markings or with the word “vermeil.”


14 k gold stamp


When in doubt, the most accurate way to tell is to take your item to a jeweler for appraisal, but here are several tests you could do at home to help you determine if your gold is real.

Does it have a stamp? If it IS real gold, it will have one of the followings stamps (typically on its inner sleeve) that represents the percentage of gold it contains:

16, 417, 10ct, 10kt, 10K, 10KP = 10 Karat

583, 585, 14ct, 14kt, 14K, 14KP = 14 Karat

750, 18ct, 18kt, 18K, 18KP = 18 Karat

916, 917, 22ct, 22kt, 22K = 22 Karat 999, 24K = 24 Karat

Note: Lack of one of the above stamps doesn’t always mean your gold jewelry isn’t pure. For example, if a ring was resized, the stamp may have been polished out or removed.

And, not all jewelry designers add a stamp. Deelytes Jewelry Collection stamps all there real gold jewelry.  If it IS NOT real gold, it should have one of these stamps alone or along with the karat information that pertains to the part of the item that is gold alloy: 1/20, 14/20 or GF = Gold-filled (Brass core with a surface of 5% gold alloy) GP = Gold-plated (Brass core with a thinner surface of .05% or less gold alloy) HGE = Hydrostatic gold electroplating GEP = Gold electroplating 925 = Sterling silver

Does it make a black streak on ceramic? If it is real gold, it will make a gold mark on unfinished ceramic. If it’s not, it will leave a black streak.

Is it heavy? If it is real gold, it will be heavier than a piece of non-gold jewelry that is of equal size.

Is it discolored? If the surface of the jewelry is tarnished or discolored, it’s less likely to be pure as this is not typical of most gold.


No and Yes. Unless it’s 24K pure gold, it is an alloy and likely mixed with nickel - a common metal allergen - to make it stronger and less malleable. If you like the look of white gold, opt for hypoallergenic titanium as an alternative (and it costs less). If you are partial to yellow gold and don’t have an extreme metal allergy, the higher Karats of gold may work for you.


Yes, because it is considered to be rare and have a high economic value. Other precious metals include silver, platinum and palladium.