GOLD

Gold is still the most popular precious metal. Because it's so easy to find, it's important to know your karats and be able to evaluate price. Here are a few tips.

KNOW YOUR KARATS

Pure gold, or 24 karats, has a deeply warm and rich color, but it is extremely soft and easily damaged. For this reason, pieces made from pure gold take on unique stamps of individuality with wear.

Oftentimes, gold is alloyed with other metals, such as copper, silver, nickel and zinc to give it strength and durability. Different proportions of these alloys also give gold its rose, green, or white coloration. The higher the karat, the richer the color will be and the more costly. 18K gold is 75% gold. 14K is 58.5%. And 10K is 41.6%.

In the United States, jewelry must be at least 10K to be legally sold as real gold. In Canada and Mexico, the minimum legal standard of karat is 8K.

Don't be confused with "carats," the weight and measure used for diamonds and other gems.

LOOK FOR THE TRADEMARK

Look for the karat mark: 10K, 14K 18K or 24K. On jewelry sold in the U.S. by law it must be there. Some manufacturers stamp a personal hallmark into the ring as well. When there’s a hallmark, it means the manufacturer stands behind the accuracy of the karat mark.

Imported gold jewelry may be stamped with different numbers. For example in Europe, 14 karat gold jewelry must be stamped 585 and 18K stamped 750.

EVALUATE THE PRICE

The price of gold jewelry is determined by several factors: karat, total weight, design, construction and ornamental detailing. Although nearly all gold jewelry today is made with the help of special machines, some handwork is always involved. The more there is, the higher the price. The good news is that through modern manufacturing technology, large, lightweight, and exciting pieces can be surprisingly affordable.

CHECK THE CLASP

When buying a gold necklace or bracelet, make sure you examine the clasp to see if it is strong enough to support the chain, especially if the piece does not have a hallmark. Run your hand over the chain and look for any rough edges. A well-made piece of gold jewelry should look and feel like the quality piece it is. And if you take the time to look it over, you will have a piece that, with good care, can last a lifetime.