How to Buy Vintage Gold Jewellery

Do you fancy a piece of antique or vintage gold jewellery? Perhaps a lovely antique brooch or a ring? It’s not quite the same as nipping down to your high street jewellers and buying new. You need a little knowledge or at least have a dealer you can trust Here are a few tips on How to Buy Vintage Gold Jewellery.

Buy Vintage Gold Jewellery

What makes Gold Jewellery special?

Gold is one of the major materials used in Jewellery. It has special properties which make it more suitable than other metals for this purpose. It’s quite easy to shape into a piece of jewellery and then holds its shape and ( given the occasional light clean) gold jewellery will stay bright and shiny forever. Gold Jewellery won’t rust or tarnish or turn your neck green. Gold is also a quite heavy material which gives a nice weight to a piece of solid gold jewellery. As well as all this gold is beautiful it is bright and this brightness doesn’t fade.


Gold Colours and Purities

You can find gold jewellery in several different colours and gold purities. Both the colour and the purity is adjusted by other materials mixed in with the pure gold. Pure gold is bright yellow, look at a pure gold coin and you can see how yellow it is in its pure state. Pure gold is can be mixed with silver, copper, palladium to bring down the purity and change the colour.

Gold HallmarkAdd in copper and you get the lovely rose gold which is so sought after in antique jewellery. Silver and palladium make it whiter, white gold is coated with palladium. Purple gold has added aluminium and blue gold includes iron. The purities of gold used in the UK are:

.375 parts per thousand ( 9 carat gold)

.585 (14 carat)

.750 (18 carat gold)

916 (22 carat)



You can also come across 15 carat gold (.625) which was legal between 1854 and 1931.

Very little British gold jewellery will be found over 22 carat as the gold is too soft to wear well. With modern British gold jewellery, you can determine the carat of the gold by reading the hallmarks. The gold hallmark varies depending on the carat and the age of the piece. Until you become familiar with gold hallmarks you can refer to a reference book such as Bradburys Book of Hallmarks.

Gold Back and FrontGold Plate, Gold Plated, Gold Filled and more

As they say ” all that glitters is not gold” and this certainly applies to jewellery. Much of the gold coloured jewellery we see today is not gold at all. Here are a few of the terms you might come across;

Gold filled – a shell of gold filled with another material. In the USA the gold layer must be at least 1/20th of the thickness of the piece to be called gold filled. This law does not apply to the UK

Gold back and front – I often see this on gold coloured lockets. There is an outer skin of gold and inside the locket is a base material.

Gold Plate – Used for solid gold objects.

Gold Plated – where there is a very thin coating of gold over a different metal.

Gold gilt or gold wash – a wash of gold used to protect the underlying metal or give it colour. The underlying material is often but not always silver.

Rolled gold – again not gold but yet another term for a  layer of gold over an unknown metal.

Gold-tone or Gold colour – gold in colour but probably has no real gold in it at all.

Yellow Metal – This is a term you see in auctioneers catalogues frequently. As the hallmarking act requires that all modern gold is hallmarked if you are going to sell it as gold auctioneers frequently refer to pieces without hallmarks as yellow metal. In many cases the jewellery will actually be made of real gold however it also may not, it is up to the bidder to make their own judgement. Similarly, they may call something “White Metal” but white metal might be gold, might be silver or might be platinum. On the other hand ” White metal” may just be any other white coloured metal too.

Solid Gold FobHere is a good tip to bag a gold jewellery bargain: Once you are a little familiar with gold jewellery and think that you can tell costume jewellery from real gold by looking at it then you can selectively buy ” Yellow Metal” jewellery at auction. Choose pieces which date from before 1950. Why? Well the next paragraph I quote from the Website of the Birmingham assay office:


*Gold, 375 parts per thousand; silver, 800 parts per thousand

6th April 2007 also sees another amendment to hallmarking legislation in respect of items originally brought on to the market pre 1950.

Before 1975, many precious metal articles (e.g. rings, whatever their weight, other than wedding rings) were exempted from hallmarking. Platinum was not hallmarked at all. Any article covered by these exemptions, if (a) of minimum fineness* (b) proved to have been manufactured before 1975, may still be described and sold as precious metal.

However, even articles which should have been hallmarked when they were made, but bear no hallmark, are now treated as exempt if they were manufactured before a specific date. Since 1999, the date has been 1920, but the amended legislation alters this date to 1950. Therefore, any pre-1950 item may now be described and sold as precious metal, if the seller can prove that it is of minimum fineness and was manufactured before 1950.

The only question remains is how you prove it is gold and prove its age and that must be down to expertise.

Care of Gold

The lower the carat of gold the harder a metal it is likely to be and the better it will wear. Less than 18 carat gold may tarnish a little but an occasional clean will restore its former glory. The higher carats are a little softer and can wear if worn next to something harder. Normally Jewellers advise not to wear 9 and 18 carat gold rings next to each other or the softer one may wear quicker.

Gold can be cleaned with most jewellery cleaners ( not silver dip) and placed in an ultrasonic cleaner quite successfully. Take specialist advice if the gold is set with gemstones as these may have different cleaning requirements.

Value of Gold Jewellery

Gold has rocketed in price over recent years if only I had put all my savings into gold 15 years ago and not bought a house I’d be a much richer woman! In the past gold jewellery has been an excellent investment, however, I have no knowledge if it will be so in the short term future or not.

Scrap Gold is valued by the gram and carat. This means, that all other things being equal, an 18 carat gold piece of jewellery should be worth exactly double the price of a 9 carat gold piece. Gold jewellery is usually worth considerably more than scrap to allow for the workmanship and antique/vintage rarity involved.

It takes a specialist jeweller to value your gold jewellery. Unless it is very damaged I suggest that you do not take your jewellery to one of these ” We buy gold for cash” companies which have recently appeared on the Internet as they are not giving good value for money.

Buying Vintage and Antique gold Jewellery

AntiquesAvenue offers a range of antique and vintage gold jewellery which is always changing and being added to regularly. Perhaps of special interest is the range of gold charms and gold brooches, gold pendants and gold rings I have.

Have you any tips on  How to Buy Vintage Gold Jewellery vintage gold jewellery? If so please do leave a comment.