Pure gold is too soft for making jewelry that will actually be worn. It is too easily bent and damaged. For this reason, most jewelry is 14 to 18 karat, and is alloyed with base metals such as silver, copper, nickel, and zinc to make it stronger, and more durable. Copper is the most commonly used base metal, yielding gold with a redder color, or rose gold. White gold is made with palladium or nickel.
Coins made of pure gold are generally only for investments or collectors and would be displayed, but not handled, as the gold will wear down too readily.
Carrots, carats, karats
Carrots are a crunchy orange vegetable, Carats are units of weight for gemstones, and Karats, when talking about gold, are a measure of its purity, not it’s weight. Each karat is 1/24th of the whole, so 24 karat is 100% or pure gold. Legally, in the United States, to be called gold, it must be a minimum of 10 karat, even though that is less than half.
The reason you are more likely to find jewelry made from 14kt gold, it that it is much more durable than purer forms of gold and is more suitable for high wear situations. Rings are more often made of 10kt because softer gold worn on the hands will be damaged to easily.
Shopping for gold jewelry in India
Just like shopping in the Gold Souk in Dubai, gold in India is sold by weight in grams, plus an additional charge for workmanship, they call this “making charges” depending on the intricacy of the jewelry. The making charge will be an amount in rupees multiplied by the weight in grams of the piece. Most jewelry will be made of 22 karat gold, as this is the quality preferred by Indians. You will find pieces made in yellow or white gold, though the white is still not as popular there.
The price of gold fluctuates from day to day, so you can find out the price that day before you go shopping. Normally, shopkeepers will not budge on the price per gram, that is set internationally, but you can haggle over the making charge. In fact, the first amount a shopkeeper will offer is set higher, sometimes even double, because it is assumed you will negotiate for a lower price. You’ll see a vast difference in the making charge, with simple items like bangles having a lower price than jewelry set with stones.
How to identify hallmarked jewelry
According to the Bureau of Indian Standards, there should be five visible marks on all jewelry indicating that it is hallmarked. These are, the logo of the Bureau, the year of hallmarking, the purity of the gold, a mark identifying the jeweler, and the logo of the lab that hallmarked the piece. The purity is represented by the number 916 for 22 kt. Jewelers will provide you with a magnifying glass so you can see the markings on the back of the jewelry.
Always insist on a bill of sale which will breakdown the price of the jewelry into the price of the gold content and the making charge.