It is important to understand the different types of gold before hunting. This area talks about a lot of the fundamentals.
Pure gold is 24 Karat or 24K or .9999 (also called four 9's). It's very dense, quite soft, and generally you don't find it outside of Bullion (bars, coins etc). The price of pure gold fluctuates constantly but a great place to see what the current price is is from www.kitco.com the chart below is an updated feed that shows the current price of gold for quick reference.
Generally the type of gold that you might come across in Flea Markets, Estate Sales, and on eBay are combinations of pure gold and some other metal. The terms 10 Karat, 14 Karat, 18 Karat etc mean that some portion of the item's weight - is not gold. This becomes important because the price of a troy ounce of of 10K, 14K, 18K material is different than for an ounce of pure gold. Basicallly karat is an important concept to understand.
So how much gold is in 10K gold? To find out, you take 10 and divide it by 24 and you get a ratio, in this case 0.416 times 100 = 41.6% gold by weight. That means the remaining 58.3% of the material in the gold - is something else! Generally copper or some other metals that will give the gold different color and strength. So if an item weighs 1 troy ounce, or 31.1 grams and it's pure gold, then assuming the current spot price of gold is say $1,000 per 31.1 grams, then .416 x $1,000 = $416/ounce which divided by 31.1 grams is $13.376 per gram!
- 14K is 14 / 24 = .583 x 100 = 58.3% gold which is $583/ounce or $18.75/gram
- 18K is 18 / 24 = .750 x 100 = 75.0% gold which is $750/ounce or $24.12/gram
- 22K is 22 / 24 = .916 x 100 = 91.6% gold which is $916/ounce or $29.45/gram
- See the Calculations area for a set of Gold and Silver Calculators that I have created in Microsoft Excel.All you have to do is enter the number of grams you have for each Karat type and the calculator will tell you the value of the material.
Being able to understand how to calculate the value of gold by the type of Karat is important to make sure you are paying an appropriate amount based on the amount of gold you are getting and so that you know how much your gold is worth before you sell it. Beware though, some gold can be counterfeit or just not real gold, but a variant of it (see the next section on Filled Gold and such)
Gold filled area needs to be completed yet. However, this graphic tells the story of why Gold Plate and HGE is worthless (not worth anything) particularly after refining fees. HOWEVER, filled gold does still have value, depending on the ratio of gold that is used. Example 1/5th of the weight of an item is gold...is better than 1/20th the weight of an item being gold. As shown in the bubble chart below:
Electro Plated Gold (EP) a.k.a. Gold Plate (GP) aka Gold Wash
A non gold metal, generally a "base metal" (junk metal) is dipped in a gold containing solution and ATOMS of gold are transferred to the surface of the base metal. Length of time the item is dipped, along with the electrical current and amount of gold in the solution determines the thickness of the gold coat on the item generally expressed in milligrams.
Suffice it to say that although there is SOME gold on plated items - it is not economical for a Refinery to recover the gold and most will refuse as it costs more than it recovers. However, some home based gold recovery people will use heavy duty acids to recover the plated gold. I will not discuss that process on this site as it's hazardous to the environment, potentially explosive (as in explosion), highly toxic, potentially lethal etc etc. It can be done and I welcome an objective article from an expert so I can post to this site. For novices DO NOT go this route.
Heavy Gold Plate (HGP)
Basically another term for Electro Plating, only MILDLY more gold - still not significant enough to worry about.
Heavey Gold Electro Plating (HGE)
Heavey Gold Electro Plating....another term of HGP
Gold Filled or Filled Gold or Rolled Gold or Rolled Gold Plate (RGP)
Several sub topics in this area. Essentially all of these descriptions are more valid than previous methods in terms of gold recovery. By US law, items that are marked with any of the names in this section, are by description covered with gold such that the weight of the item, is partially a base metal and partially gold.
The amount of gold in the item is then further defined by a ratio such as 1/5, 1/10, 1/20, 1/40. Basically that's the same as 20%, 10%, 5%, 2.5% of the weight of the item is gold. 1/5th is not very common to find, but if you find it, it has the highest portion of gold as compared to the others. The most typical ratios you will find are 1/10 an 1/20 and only rarely 1/40 (which isn't worth the trouble).
Where this becomes important is when buying gold filled items - you can actually make money on them. Example
- 1/5th gold items typically include Service Pins for working for a company for say 20 years...or similar other lapel pins, generally from the early to mid 1900's.
- 1/10th is extremely common in Gold Filled Eye Glasses. Usually above the nose piece you will see 12K 1/10 which basically works out to be like $5 worth of gold in each pair of glasses - generally
- 1/20th is extremely common in low quality jewelry like costume jewelry
- 1/40th is very uncommon - and found with super low quality older jewelry
Deceptive term. Basically something that is Solid Gold is not necessarily PURE GOLD (at least not how most people use the phrase). Solid Gold generally means an item is either 10K, 14K, 18K, 22K, 24K gold with no base metal under the gold. However, by definition there is some kind of metal (generally copper or similar) melted into the gold to give it strength. Gold that is 10K has 10 parts of gold for every 24 parts of metal...meaning that 14 parts of the metal is non gold i.e. copper (rose gold). Another way to look at it is 10 / 24 = .416 which x 100 is 41.6%. So 10K, solid gold, is 41.6% gold and 58.4% some other metal like copper.
Keep in mind though that just because an item carries a 10K, 14K, or 18K stamp or a mark showing its Karat and gold content - doesn't mean that it's true. By law - yes, people are obligated to have the amount of gold content in the item as it is stamped. However, over the years I've learned the hardway that not everyone plays by the rules. People can take items, coat them in a thin layer of gold, and then stamp them with whatever Karat mark they wish (or worse yet the item is Brass and looks like gold - but has a stamp on it). The only way to really protect yourself is to use Acids and test the gold for yourself. Here is an example of the tool that are used to make fake gold marks, all are easily found on eBay or other websites.
Often testing gold is not practical though - particularly if you are at a flea market or estate sale. People will either immediately jack up the price or they won't allow you to test the material (since it can leave scuff marks or stains on the material). However if you are working a gold party, or in your home, you should always take the time to test each piece of gold - regardless of what it is stamped. At a minimum this helps you to quantify the amount of gold you have when you send it in to get melted down by a refinery.