When you’re sorting out your old unwanted or broken gold pieces to cash in, remember not all gold jewellery is created equally, and the higher the gold content, the higher the price you’ll receive.
The most common carats (ct) of gold used in jewellery in the UK are 9ct, 18ct and 24ct . In its purest form, gold is a very soft metal and in order to make it tough enough to withstand the rigours of life as a piece of jewellery, other metals are added to it.
Nine carat gold is 37.5 per cent pure gold, 18ct is 75 per cent pure and 24ct is pure gold. Typically, other metals such as silver and copper are added to make the gold stronger. White gold obtains its colour thanks to the addition of silver and the currently very fashionable rose gold – which was also a favourite of the Victorians – receives its pinkish hue because copper has been added.
Experts can often tell the carat of a piece simply by its feel and colour. The richer the gold colour, generally the higher the carat. They will also look at the hallmark, which is made up of different symbols showing where the gold was ‘assayed’ or tested for purity and will often show the date the piece was manufactured.
Gold hallmarks are often so small that a magnifying glass is needed to identify them properly and in many cases, if a piece is old or has been worn frequently, they may have blurred or disappeared all together.
Scrap gold is also tested for purity with an assay test, which uses acid solutions on a minute scraping of gold from the item. The more gold that is left after the solution is applied, the purer the metal.
If you want to try to identify the purity of your jewellery, there are numerous online guides to hallmarks you can find through Google. You can also buy home assaying kits but this is usually best left to the experts.