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Gold in its pure state is seldom used for jewelry as it is too soft. It is combined with other metals (alloys) to produce a more durable metal. The presence of other metals in gold produces the various colors of gold. Copper, for example, adds a reddish tint. Nickel and copper with zinc turn gold white.


Pure gold is stated as 24 karat. Each karat represents 1/24 of pure gold. The gold content of an 18K jewelry item is therefore 18/24 or 75% pure gold. According to the European system, 18K gold is marked 750, 14K gold is marked 585, 10K gold is marked 420.

10K gold is the lowest percentage allowed to be marked and sold as Karat Gold Jewelry in the United States. Underkarating (stamping a karatage as higher than the item actually contains) does occur, but most of it goes undetected because it is not possible to analyze gold jewelry for its karatage without damaging the jewelry in the process.

Costume Jewelry

The following terms are used to describe costume jewelry. These items, too, should be stamped with trademark and karatage.

Shopping Considerations and Caveats

Gold Prices

The following chart (from illustrates the volatility of gold prices.

You can explore for more data on the price fluctuations of gold and other metals.

While the cost of materials greatly affects the price of jewelry, workmanship is also a factor.

The bottom line is that you should buy a piece of jewelry because you love it, not as an investment!