Know Your karats
Look for the karat mark, which will tell you that the piece is real gold and the percentage of pure gold it contains. Pure gold, or 24K, has a deeply warm and rich color, but it is extremely soft and easily damaged. 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. 18K gold is 75% gold; 14K is 58.5%; and 10K is 41.6%. The higher the karat, the richer the color will be and the more costly. In the U.S. jewelry must be at least 10K to be legally sold as real gold
Note: Don’t be confused with “carats,” the weight and measure used for diamonds and other gems.
Look For The Trademark
On karat-marked jewelry sold in the U.S., always look for the manufacturer’s trademark. By U.S. law it must be there. When there’s a hallmark, it means the manufacturer stands behind the accuracy of the karat mark. You may also find the country of origin marked.
Evaluate The Price
In addition to karat weight, the price of gold jewelry is determined by several factors: total weight; design and construction; and ornamental detailing, such as engraving or Florentine finish. 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.
For more information visit the official Jewelry Information Center.