I look at the pieces of gold antique jewellery I have for sale and use the word “gold” in different ways.  Its quite a complex area as there is a wide range of the way we use it.  From something that is simply gold in colour through to 24 carat . This article explains the ways the words gold antique jewellery are used.

chuncky-link-gold-chainCurrent Situation:

It is expensive, very expensive and a much higher price that its ever been. All the confidence was knocked out of the banking system a few years ago. Then the  housing market plummeted, investors turned to gold instead. The result of this was that the price soared to record levels . The price of gold jewellery followed it upwards.  So to buy a real piece of new gold jewellery nowadays you are going to have to pay quite a lot .  Even a trace chain or a solid nine carat gold charm is costly.  As a result of this the jewellery makers have turned to several other metals and terms.  These are to make you think you are getting real gold for your money.

You simply cant buy a real gold chain for £10. Maybe for twice that you can buy a really skinny one which will not be strong enough to hang a charm from for more than one or two wearings. So how are the modern jewellers marketing gold substitutes  to make us think we are getting more for out money? On-line and on the high street  they are putting gold in the title and in the small print of a piece the detail is saying things like:

  • Metal type: stainless steel, plating gold
  • Gold toned ( just means its a gold colour , no real gold here at all)
  • Gold vermeil ( gold plated on silver)
  • 18ct gold plated ( its still just plated )
  • When they describe an item as gold plated it is likely that the plating is just microns thick.

Gold terms from the past.

It is not just todays jewellers who have played around with the word “gold” to market jewellery.  This practice  has been going on for centuries. When we look at gold antique jewellery we can find many different terms :


15ct-gold-locket-brooch-with-flowersAnything described as gold with no further qualification should be carat gold. In the UK we can find between 9 carats ( or ct) and 24 carat gold ( very unusual to find this in jewellery). This applies to new and antique jewellery but the situation is complicated in antique jewellery. We find that many good pieces of gold do not carry the full hallmarks which are a legal requirement in today’s new pieces. The hallmarking laws changed throughout the years. One time it was quite ok to sell them without the hallmarks. We can still sell non-hallmarked gold today as long as the pieces were legal at the time they were made they are still ok.

Other uses of gold are ( top down best to cheapest)

  • Gold back and front: A gold outer casing with an inner non-gold layer. If you look at a gold back and front locket you can often see the join along the inside. I have seen gold back and front items with up to 50% gold and certainly the prices of them tend to reflect this. Look for items which actually have gold back and front stamped on them. You may be surprised how collectable these are nowadays.
  • Gold filled, Rolled gold, rolled gold plate  An outer layer of gold which is attached to another metal ( silver or non-precious metal). The thickness of the gold varies but in the USA it is required that at least 1/20 is gold and it is often more.    You can find gold filled or rolled gold stamped onto some pieces of jewellery but they may be still made of these metals if they are not stamped as such. That is why looking at antique jewellery can be so difficult sometimes.
  • Gold leaf, This is a very thin layer of gold applied to an item. Gold leaf can be about 0.005 mm deep. I’m surprised we can actually use or see it at this thickness. This is one of the wonderful properties of the metal that it can be worked into incredibly thin layers.
  • Gold plated. Gold plating can be just a few microns thick, less even than gold leaf. There is very little precious metal in a gold plated piece.
  • Gold toned or golden. No gold at all, just a pretty gold colour

antique-gold-fancy-link-pendant-necklace-with-heart-17744-p1I hope you found this interesting, I will do a detailed examination of each of the types of gold antique jewellery at some time in the future. Until then, have fun