How to Buy Gold: 5 Must Knows

When I was in my teens, a herringbone gold chain was the piece everyone wanted. We all had one. It was a symbol of style and luxury. In the 90s and early 2000s, yellow gold seemed to fade in popularity. But boy, has it made a comeback!

Herringbone chain popular in the 90s 


Popularity of Gold Jewelry 

What we’re seeing everywhere these days are yellow gold paperclip link chains. People stack them or wear them alone. Thick & chunky or more dainty and feminine, the looks are endless. Charms and pendants can be attached. They have become extremely popular! To me, it’s the “herringbone chain” of this decade.

At first, I thought it was a fad that will wear out. But I learned, with so many unique looks we can create these days, the link chains will be coveted for many years to come. 

link gold chains 14k

Ounce of Salt Jewelry 14k Solid Gold Link Chains from $240-$690

Gold is an Investment

Gold is a great investment. Prices continue to rise over time. Just last year, we saw a 30% increase in pricing. During March and April of COVID-19 hysteria, gold prices skyrocketed to new highs. They have now stabilized again to 2019 pricing. But, I predict pricing will continue to rise in the future. 

The Basics of Gold Jewelry

Unless you are in the jewelry industry or collect fine jewelry, the different types of gold in the market can be confusing. I wrote a post about the differences of 18k, 14k, Gold Vermeil, Plated, and Gold Filled Jewelry which I recommend you read before purchasing any type of gold jewelry. 

Need-to-Know Before Buying Gold Jewelry

How long do you want to wear the piece?

  1. If just for a season or two, buy gold plated or vermeil.
  2. If for a year, buy gold filled. 
  3. If for longer than a year, buy a minimum of 14K gold. 

How Heavy is the Piece of Jewelry You Want?

If you’re looking to get a chunky necklace or bracelet more as a statement piece that you don’t see yourself wearing all the time and it’s more trendy than classic, get a costume piece or buy gold plated. Solid gold (14k/18k) is sold by weight. The higher the weight, the higher the price. And the higher the gold content, the higher the price. For instance, 14k will be much less expensive than 18k gold.

If you want to invest in solid gold even for a larger piece, consider purchasing hollow gold instead of solid. For instance, for paperclip necklaces, I recommend hollow or semi-hollow gold links which give the same look of solid gold but are much lighter in weight, and therefore less expensive. Personally, I do not like heavy chains around my neck and prefer light weight on my neck as well as my ears. How can you tell? The weight of the gold will be much heavier when the gold is solid throughout the piece. 

Finally, know your lengths and sizes. For instance, A necklace that is 18 inches will be heavier and therefore more expensive than 16 inches. 

How Does Brand Pricing Affect My Investment?

You may be thinking “Aha! that is why the pictures of seemingly the same piece of 14k gold are so different among brands!”

It’s true that solid gold will likely be 3-5x the weight of hollow gold which may lead to higher pricing. But another key factor in pricing is the brand’s markup. If the brand is designer like Tiffany or Cartier, they will be marking up their items A LOT for their brand name. 

While workmanship is extremely important in fine jewelry, when it comes to solid gold, two pieces that are made of the same gold content, metal and weight that look identical, are similar in value. Gold is gold, so you are better off buying the piece from a non-designer brand as long as you trust the authenticity of its gold content and its workmanship.  

Workmanship for Gold

These days, unless it is a special one of a kind or delicate piece, most gold pieces are made with machinery. No doubt, high volume selling chains like paperclip necklaces are made via machines which are more cost efficient. In my opinion, for a 14-18k gold chain, I would prefer machine-made. It’s just not worth the extra cost to have a hand made chain. 

Color of Gold

A note about white gold – for chains, it is not necessary to buy anything above 14k when purchasing white colored gold. Some people prefer 18k due to its higher quality in gold content. For yellow gold chains, the more yellow in color you want, the higher the carat you will need. Usually, 14k yellow gold will suffice for your needs. But for people who prefer better quality or for more of that rich yellow look, 18k gold will be a better choice albeit more expensive. 

My Preferences for Gold 

Vermeil or Gold Plated

I have not had success with gold plated or vermeil jewelry. They tend to tarnish within a few months of wear. Lotions, sweat, water, or anything that comes into contact with the metal will start to break down the thin layer of gold covering the metal. Gold plating is 2.5 microns or less of gold coating over metal underneath. To give you perspective of the thickness of a micron, 1 micron is one thousandth of a millimeter. Crazy, right? 

Also, to keep vermeil or gold plated preserved, it is best to seal it in a bag so it is not exposed to air which can also lead to quicker discoloration.

Gold Filled

When it comes to gold filled, (be careful of companies claiming gold-filled when they really mean they are gold plated) gold-filled tends to be lighter yellow in color which to me looks cheap. Many times, a piece marketed as “gold filled” has a coat of yellow rhodium over the cheaper gold color underneath to give it a more luxurious look. Sometimes gold filled can look luxurious and last a few years. Just make sure you trust the brand, and you should be good.

Workmanship and Weight

As I stated above, I prefer machine made chains in genuine or (solid-14/18k) gold. I also prefer hollow or semi-hollow, lighter weight gold for the ears and neck. But for rings and non-chain bracelets, my preference of machine or hand made depends on the item. For instance, I love the look of a hammered metal which is usually hand made. 

For rings, I prefer solid gold and never hollow due to the wear and tear on our hands. Hollow will easily dent with pressure. For bracelets, whether I prefer hollow or solid gold depends on the item. Generally if it is a thick link chain for a bracelet I prefer hollow, other items I prefer solid. Any dainty piece of gold should not be hollow. 

Conclusion on Gold Jewelry

Wow, when I started this post I thought I’d give just a few quick tips on how to buy gold jewelry without realizing how much I have to say on the subject!

As you can see, it is hard to differentiate among the many types of gold jewelry in the marketplace. Be careful when you go to purchase an item. Photography can always be made to look luxurious and perfect. You don’t want to invest in any piece that 1) Isn’t the quality you intended 2) Turns color quickly.  

I’ve added a new line of 14k gold to my jewelry collection at Ounce of Salt Jewelry. Take a look at the selection of my favorite links!

And if you aren’t already on my email list, I would love to have you join which will give you new post alerts and announcements about Ounce of Salt Jewelry. Have a great week, and thank you for being here!

Flavor Your Life with an Ounce of Salt. A Lifestyle Blog by Jen Oliak.