About Gold

GoldBefore you buy gold or sell gold it’s important that you understand some basic facts about gold, and this is what this page is about.

The information below covers the most common questions that we are asked, and gives you the knowledge you need to make an informed decision.

First of all lets look at gold itself and what people mean by 9ct gold (or 9K gold, 9 carat gold, etc) through to 24ct gold (24K gold, 24 carat gold, or pure gold, etc), since this is vitally important if you’re wondering “how much is my gold worth?”.

Gold Carats

With gold you can get 5 different grades, these being 9 carat, 14 carat, 18 carat, 22 carat, and 24 carat.

The carat is a measure of the gold purity, or how much of the gold object you have is actual gold, and how much is other added metals that are not valuable.

The reason incidentally that other metals are added to gold is that gold is a very soft metal, and anything made from pure gold would simply get damaged, lose its shape, patterning, etc, the other metals give it strength.

Gold Carats Parts Gold Parts other metals Purity
9 carat (9ct, 9K, etc) 9 15 37.5%
14 carat (14ct, 14K, etc) 14 10 58.3%
18 carat (18ct, 18K, etc) 18 6 75%
22 carat (22ct, 22K, etc) 22 2 91.6%
24 carat (24ct, 24K, pure gold) 24 0 100%

 

So as you can see, the lower the carat rating, the less gold there is in the object, and the difference is quite significant, which is why 18 carat gold is worth twice as much as 9 carat gold for example, literally because there is twice as much gold.

You can also see why 9 carat gold is sometimes called .375 gold, because this is a decimal expression of 37.5%. Similarly you might see 14 carat gold called .583 gold or 585 gold, 18 carat called .75 gold, 22 carat called .916 gold, and why 24 carat gold is called pure gold – because it is literally solid gold with nothing else added to it (24K gold is often stamped 999).

What you’ll tend to find is that things like bullion bars issued as ways of physically investing in gold will be 24 carat, gold coins like sovereigns, maples, and krugerrands will be 22 carat, antique gold jewellery will be 14 carat, 18 carat, and sometimes 22 carat, and modern gold jewellery is primarily 9 carat.

Once you have the weight and the carats you can work out how much your gold is worth, this is explained in more detail on the scrap gold page.

You can usually tell which carat of gold you have by looking at the hallmarks.

Gold Hallmarks

All gold made in the UK has by law to be stamped by an official assay office so that consumers know what they are buying, and are not being sold 9 carat gold at 22 carat gold prices, etc.

Hallmarks can be anywhere on an item, but for jewellery like rings you’ll usually find it inside the ring (that is the part that will be in contact with your finger), on bracelets and necklaces it’s usually near the clasp and on any drops or pendants, and the same for earrings.

On old watches it is usually inside the lid. In other words the hallmarks are usually hidden where they won’t be seen when an object is being worn, and consequently they can be very small, so you’ll probably need a magnifying glass!

The hallmark table below (from the UK assay office) shows you how hallmarks tend to look.

UK gold hallmarks

You have symbols representing the makers marks, the purity of the gold, the town or city it was made, and the year it was made.

There are really only 3 important bits you need to know – the purity, maker, and the year it was made. The year is important where you have an item that is antique, the maker in case it’s made by a top class goldsmith or jeweller.

Antique Gold & Well Known Makers

Antique gold requires a bit of extra information, since depending on what you have, it could be worth significantly more than the gold content alone.

If you have just plain rings or pretty standard run of the mill rings or jewellery then your item will probably be worth just the gold content, however if you have elaborate pieces of antique jewellery, or nice quality items made by top class jewellers, then you may possess something worth many, MANY times more than the value of the gold alone.

I’m sure that you have seen the Antiques Roadshow where people have items made by Faberge, or Aspreys, or Tiffanys, or other top class makers. As an example see the story of an Olympic gold medal worth £400 in gold that sold for £17,500.

In these cases the item can often be worth considerable amounts of money just because of the pedigree of the maker or retailer, you have to remember that these companies have been at the top end of the market for over a century, and the items they have sold have always been very expensive and valuable.

When you have something antique or from a top jeweller or goldsmith, then you are crossing over into the realms of collectables and antiques, with people who desire to own these objects willing to pay a lot of money to obtain them.

If you have something that you believe may be valuable in this way then you need to seek out a reputable and knowledgeable expert dealer to get an expert opinion.

This means finding an antiques dealer who specialises in gold, silver, and jewellery, or a top class jeweller that who sells antique jewellery. They will usually be members of organisations like LAPADA – it is no use going to your local antiques center and asking someone who specialises in selling nick-nacks!

Make sure that you get a proper assessment from someone who knows what they are talking about, they will probably also be happy to make you a great offer if you want to sell your item to them.

In all cases it is far better to be safe than sorry!