8 Things You Should Know Before Buying Gold or Silver Jewelry

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Christmas is long gone, and Valentine’s Day is a distant memory. That means it’s a slow time for jewelers, and a good time for you to make a purchase. Whether you’re out shopping for gold, or silver, here are a few things you need to know:

What determines price?
The purity of the metal is one of the elements that determines the price.  Gold purity is indicated with a stamp of 10K, 14K, 18K, or 24K.  And different countries have their own standards.  For example, for a piece to be considered gold in the US, it must be at least 10K.  In Britain and Canada: 9K; In Italy and France: 18K.  Anything over 18K is really too soft for everyday wear.  That’s why jewelry stores in the US sell mostly 14K.

How much can you expect to pay?
That depends on the weight of the metal and the gemstone.  So keep that in mind, especially when buying online, says jewelry expert, Michele Lau.  To keep yourself from getting ripped off, ask yourself the following:

  • How long has the company been around?
  • What is its return policy?
  • Is the jewelry featured on the website visible from all directions?
  • Is the company transparent with the gram weights and the size of the gemstones?

Yellow gold? White? Rose?
Yes, it’s confusing, and while largely a personal decision, there are a few things to keep in mind, says Lau. For starters, white or rose gold costs about 10% more than yellow gold. If you want the “look for less,” consider gold-plated jewelry. “Gold plated” and “gold overlay” mean the same thing and guarantee a thicker layer of finish than “vermeil” which is a flash finish that is thinner and less consistent, but more affordable.  Lau recommends buying vermeil finished pieces for fashionable pieces you want for a season or two. For pieces you want to wear for a lifetime, solid gold is best.

(See also: Designer bridesmaids dresses under $200)

What about sterling silver?
Sterling silver has been a savvy alternative for white gold during the difficult economy, and while it used to be more popular with just the younger, edgier consumer, these days it has much more mass appeal.  So much so that retailers are now offering fine gemstones with silver--something you used to see only with gold, says Lau. Interested?

Keep in mind that in the US, the sterling silver standard is 92.5% real silver. Don’t buy it if there isn’t a “925” stamp on it. And keep in mind that the lower price you’re paying for silver means more maintenance. To keep silver jewelry from tarnishing consider keeping a piece of chalk in your jewelry box.

What are some of your tips when it comes to buying gold and silver pieces? We’d love to hear from you! Connect with me on Twitter @veragibbons and use the hashtag, #FinFit. 

And special thanks To Avianne & Co. for making this video possible.

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