It looks like gold, but is it? That’s a tricky question. A plain base metal can be made to look like real gold or silver through various manufacturing techniques. So how can you tell that you’re getting the real thing? Start by learning the differences and what to look for.
Gold filled jewelry is sometimes referred to as “rolled gold”. This refers to a very thin, solid layer of gold that is bonded to a base metal such as brass or even silver. Jewelers in Massachusetts know the difference instantly, but it is often difficult, if not impossible, for the untrained eye to tell the difference by appearance alone. These pieces are usually marked with the letters “GF” or “1/20 12K GF” and “1/20 14K GF” . But despite the fact that the Federal Trade Commission has strict regulations regarding these stamps, people can use them deceptively. So as always, buyer beware.
Gold plating is slightly different. Instead of a layer of gold or silver being applied to the base metal, the base metal is dipped in a bath and uses electricity or chemicals to draw the gold onto it. This can be used to decorate jewelry and other decorative objects. Jewelers in Massachusetts would caution you to be very careful. To the naked eye, it’s extremely difficult to tell the difference between the two. Silver is often used for gold plating for jewelry since the silver provides a better surface for the gold to adhere to.
Most experts agree that the only true test to make sure what you are getting is real gold is the scratch test. The piece in question can be scratched on a stone and tested with acid to see how quickly the scratch mark fades. This is not something consumers can do on their own, so it’s important to know and trust the business you are buying from. Reputable Massachusetts pawn shops may make use this technique. One thing a consumer can do to test an item on their own is use a magnet. Gold and silver are non-magnetic so they will not be drawn to the magnet. This is not fool proof, however, since other metals may not be magnetic and certain parts of an item such as a clasp may be the only part that is a different alloy.
The answer is that the metal generally has no intrinsic value, meaning it has no value to Massachusetts pawn shops or gold buyers. On the other hand, it can be a great way to have beautiful jewelry at a bargain price.
In the past, pawnbrokers and precious metal dealers were the primary buyers of gold and silver. Recently, however, as the price of gold and silver rose to all-time highs, many others jumped into the market. Companies started to advertise that you could “send them your gold” for cash. Jewelry stores started paying cash for gold in Massachusetts as a way to survive in tough economic times. Special “dealers/brokers” started to rent hotel rooms and advertise gold buying events. Pop up stores began appearing in malls claiming to pay top dollar. Gold buying “parties”, like the old Tupperware parties became a new social event. Friends invited you to come and sell your gold while you had a glass of wine and a snack. With so many options, who can you trust? Who will know the true value of your items and be willing to pay you top dollar for your gold? Here’s what you should be looking for:
If the barber shop down the street hangs up a sign that says, “We’ll Pay Cash for Gold”, is that somebody you can trust? How long have they been in the business of buying gold and silver? Are they licensed and regulated? By whom? When a company is concerned about following the rules and regulations such as having their scales tested by the Department of Weights and Measures or reporting all transactions to the local police, they are less likely to try to cut corners or pay you less than your gold or silver is worth. As an example, all of Empire Loan’s stores report transactions on a daily basis to the police in the communities where we operate. The Department of Weights and Measures tests our scales on an annual basis. The accuracy of these scales may be the difference between you getting some money and getting the money you truly deserve.
When you bring an item in to a buyer, do they look at it and immediately make you an offer? Or do they test it for assay (10, 14 or 18 karat) and put it on a scale in front of you? What do they base the price on? Is it the average price of gold or silver that week, month or year? Or is it simply what they are willing to pay? If a company is paying cash for gold in Massachusetts, find out how they calculate their prices. At Empire Loan, we base everything on the spot price of the current commodities market price of gold. If gold goes up, we pay more. If gold goes down, we pay less. Regardless, we pay anywhere from 70 to 75% of the spot price of gold. We have a calculation that takes into account what karat the gold is and what the spot price is. And our staff is always willing to explain exactly how we calculate the price we’re paying. We’re honest, straightforward and transparent about what we’ll pay for your items, and how we arrived at that figure. You certainly won’t leave a gold buying party with that kind of confidence.
When a customer comes in and asks for a price, we’ll do the appropriate test and measures right in front of you and explain how we’re arriving at the price we’re willing to pay. We also encourage them to shop around. We do this because we are confident that whatever we offer is a fair and reasonable price. The customer owes it to themselves to maximize what they can be paid for their merchandise. Very often, when customers shop around, they end up coming back because we offered more. No hard feelings, just good honest business practices.
How can you trust the person you’re selling your gold and silver to? Instead of “Buyer Beware”, this is a case of “Seller Beware”.
Boston jewelers often have to educate their customers about the different colors of gold. Did you know, for example, that a 14-karat white gold ring contains the same amount of gold as a 14-karat yellow gold ring: 58.5% percent pure gold? The difference in color is the result of the different metal alloys with which the gold is mixed with. Yellow gold is made by mixing pure gold with the alloy metals copper and zinc. White gold is made with an alloy of gold and white metals such as silver and palladium. At one time, nickel was used in white gold, but many people had allergic reactions to the metal so it is no longer used. Even Rose gold starts out as yellow gold and is mixed with alloys such as copper to give it a red tint.
White gold is often used for engagement rings or rings that contain diamonds. The white metal tends to highlight the diamonds, while yellow gold may give the stones a yellow tint. Some rings may actually use yellow gold for the band or shank of the ring and use white gold for the setting. While it’s really a matter of personal taste, white gold also tends to cost less than other white metals like platinum and titanium. White gold rings are easy to re-size if necessary, but titanium and platinum rings can be difficult, if not impossible, to re-size. One issue with white gold is a possible fade in color. The reason for this is that white gold rings are usually coated in rhodium to make them appear brighter and more silver. The rhodium does wear off eventually, so you may need to get your ring re-rhodium plated, possibly as frequently as once a year.
Yellow gold is the traditional color for gold jewelry. Boston jewelers are likely to have a larger selection of chains, bracelets, earrings and rings in yellow gold than in white. Yellow gold also does not need to be re-plated the way white gold occasionally does, and the chance of allergic reactions to the alloys used in yellow gold is much lower. When it comes to setting diamonds in yellow gold, some feel the difference in color helps the stone to stand out more in contrast to the yellow gold. In terms of repairs and resizing, yellow gold is very easy for a professional to work with, insuring seamless repairs.
In the end, yellow gold, white gold and even rose gold have the same value, providing the assay or karat is the same. This means that 14-karat yellow gold has the same gold content as 14-karat white gold or 14-karat rose gold and therefore should be valued the same by Boston jewelers or pawn brokers. It’s all a matter of what you like and what makes you happy.