The karatage of the jewelry will tell you what percentage of gold it contains: 24 karat is 100 percent, 18 karat is 75 percent, and 14 karat is 58 percent gold. When comparing gold jewelry, the higher the number of karats, the greater the value.
Europeans have long embraced 18-karat gold as their metal of choice, and with good reason. Its rich yellow color, luxurious look and feel have an extraordinarily sensual appeal; many European women treat 18-karat gold like a second skin, even wearing it to the beach!
Today, women in the U.S. and around the globe are “trading up” and treating themselves to the beauty and opulence of 18-karat gold.
When buying gold jewelry, always look for the karat mark. All other things being equal, the higher the karat, the more expensive the piece. In the United States, 14-karat gold, or 583 parts pure gold, is the most common degree of fineness. Nothing less than 10 karats can legally be marked or sold as gold jewelry in the U.S. However, lower karatages, such as 8-karat gold and 9-karat gold, are popular in other countries.
18-karat gold is 18/24ths, or three-quarters pure gold, and jewelry of this fineness is marked 18k or 750, the European designation meaning 75% gold.
Always look for the karat mark or “k” that appears on the back of the piece. By U.S. law, if a karat mark appears you should also see the manufacturer’s trademark to assure you that the karat marking is accurate. The country of origin should also appear.
In addition to the karat mark, every piece of gold jewelry should be stamped with a hallmark or trademark of its maker, and sometimes its country of origin. These designations assure you that you are buying genuine karat gold jewelry. Heavier pieces contain more gold.
Gold Filled, also called Gold Overlay, refers to a layer of at least 10-karat gold that has been permanently bonded by heat and pressure to one or more surfaces of the support metal, then rolled or drawn to a prescribed thickness. The karat gold must be at least 1/ 10 of the total weight.
Gold Plate means that a layer of plating of 10-karat gold or better has been bonded to a base metal. The karat gold content may be less than 1/20, but it must be properly identified by weight in terms of total metal content. Gold Leaf is just gold plating that’s been pounded and applied by hand.
Yellow gold is alloyed with silver and copper. It is the most frequently used type of gold there is. Malleable, ductile, and generally non-corrosive, it has a high melting point and is not susceptible to compression.
White gold is alloyed with a large percentage of silver, or a selection of other white metals. The percentage of gold naturally varies, according to the amount of other metal used. White gold is highly reflective and not subject to tarnish. The ancient term for it was Electrum. Its use predates that of Palladium and Platinum.
Rose gold is alloyed with copper, and perhaps silver. The proportions are about one part of copper to three parts of 24-karat gold.
Gold pricing is based on a number of factors, including karatage, gram weight, design and craftsmanship. The karatage and gram weight tell you how much gold is in a piece, but don’t rely on these alone to determine price. Remember, a price based solely on gram weight does not reflect the work that has gone into the piece.
Other important factors to consider are the jewelry’s construction and design. The techniques of construction can make a piece more durable and flexible for added comfort. A well-made piece in a classic design will give you years of wear and enjoyment and, if cared for properly, will last a lifetime. Unique design, intricate details, gemstones or a special clasp may add to the price.
Gold jewelry is mainly produced by machine. Any additional hand finishing or textural interest raises the cost. Similar looking pieces may have vastly different price tags. This is because different pieces may have specific characteristics that make them unique. So look carefully to notice any differences and similarities. Often, it’s these small details that give you pleasure through the years that you enjoy a piece of jewelry, and ensure that your children will also enjoy it.
Purchasing a Diamond Engagement Ring
Know what you want to spend
You will be confronted with a dizzying array of choices when it comes to engagement rings. Have a price range in mind. Going in with fairly specific parameters will help your jeweler find the right engagement ring to fit your budget.
What kind of jewelry does she already wear?
Is she more classic or modern? Feminine or sophisticated? Does she wear more silver or gold? Do her pieces tend to be more delicate or chunky? Simple or ornate? Have these preferences in mind when you set out to shop. If you buy something similar to what she already likes, you can’t go wrong.
Know her ring size
If she wears rings, borrow one she already owns. Trace the inner circle on a piece of paper, or press the ring into a bar of soap for an impression. You can also slide it down one of your own fingers and draw a line where it stops. A jeweler can use these measurements to identify her approximate ring size.
If she doesn’t wear rings, estimate in the following manner: The average ring size in the US is 6 (based on the ‘average’ US female being 5’4″ tall and weighing 140 lbs.) If she’s more slender, or fine boned, her ring size is probably in the 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 range. If she is heavier, larger boned or taller, her ring size is probably in the 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 range. It’s always better to buy a ring a bit bigger than you think she’ll need, because sizing a ring down is much easier than increasing its size.
Are her preferences hard to pin down?
Consider buying an unset diamond. If you choose the diamond first and have the setting made later, you can include her in selecting the style and final details of the ring (always a good idea) and avoid the awkwardness of choosing a ring that’s more to your taste than hers.
Know what diamond shape suits her
If she hasn’t made it easy for you by already voicing an opinion on the subject (or admiring someone else’s engagement ring), here are a few things to keep in mind when considering shape:
She will be wearing this ring 24/7 every day of your married life. It will need to go with everything from jeans to evening wear. If you’re uncertain about her shape preference, it’s sensible to stick to the classics. They became classics because they appeal to most people most of the time. Shapes with fewer facets, such as emerald or square, require higher clarity. The fewer the facets, the more visible any inclusions will be. Certain shapes pair more successfully with other gems in multi-stone rings. Round, Oval and Marquise all work well. Pear and Heart shape are more challenging. Taste in shape is often reflected in other tastes a woman has. If she prefers clean, modern lines in furniture, for example, it’s likely she’ll react well to the same aesthetic in Emerald or Square shapes. If she tends towards the traditional, a round shape rarely misses. More bohemian types tend to favor more unusual shapes, like Trilliant or Marquise.
What Setting Makes Sense?
While there are an unending variety of patterns, details and metal choices, there are four basic types you are likely to encounter:
A single stone. Still the most popular choice in engagement rings. The head secures the diamond. Prongs allow the diamond to catch the most light. A four-prong-setting shows more of the diamond, but a six-prong setting is often more secure.
Diamonds or other gemstones, flank the main stone for additional sparkle or color. Popular sidestone settings include ‘channel’, which protects stones by keeping them flush, and ‘bar-channel’, which allows more light to enter the sidestones.
Three Stone – One diamond for the past, one for the present, and one for the future. Typically, the center diamond is larger than the two side stones.
The main stone is surrounded by tiny diamonds to add sparkle and the illusion of greater size.
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