Antique Gold Jewelry – What to Look for and Where to Buy

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Bold Gold has been a trend for many years and it seems like it is here to stay. When looking for these gold items, Antique Gold Jewelry is a great option to find something unique and bold to add to your collection!

What is Gold?

Gold is a chemical element that is both bright and malleable, making it perfect for jewelry manufacturing. It is measured in carat weight, which varies from 8K to 24K. With the addition of base metals such as copper and silver, you get different colors and softness. It’s purest form is 24K, which is a richer yellow color and softer, too soft for everyday wear. As you go lower in number, there are more alloys present, making the color less rich but also harder.

how to buy gold vintage jewelry - history of gold in jewelry

History of Gold in Jewelry

  • Likely, gold was first used in jewelry in 3000 B.C. What drew people to gold was the malleability of the product. As it is beaten, whether hot or cold, it’s molecules move and change position, allowing it to loosen it’s thickness and produces thin sheets.
  • In Ancient times, we see gold jewelry that has been embossed. This is where a raised pattern, a relief, is produced on these thin gold sheets.
  • Egyptians were known for their goldsmiths and the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun reveals many of these spectacular pieces. In fact, his innermost coffin was made entirely of gold! There were jewels and gold jewelry found in boxes throughout the rooms in the tombs. All of the items found were of high quality with the use of gold seen throughout. Symmetry was an important feature during this time, so you will see many gold bangles and hooped earrings.
  • The Minoan civilization amassed a great deal of wealth, leading to their use of gold. Filigree beads, large necklaces and even gold mask were found in burial sites. They are also credited with the production of the first cable chain, likely made of gold.
how to buy antique gold jewelry
  • The Etruscans were skilled goldsmiths and their preferred method for jewelry making was repousse. Similar to embossing, a relief is raised from the back or inside of the item. They would take two pieces, curve them with repousse designs and create beautiful gold beads full of intricate designs.
  • Imperial Rome became a central meeting point for goldsmiths and lapidaries, with people coming from Greece and Asia to study. During this flourish, you’ll start to see gold rings being worn by lower class society and soldiers, instead of just the upper class. The upper class had increased their gold usage by having household objects made of gold!
  • Italy, during the Renaissance, also saw in increase in the skill of goldsmiths. Famous artists such as Sandro Botticelli and Filippo Brunelleschi all started at goldsmiths’ workshops as apprentices. They worked with gold medallions and jewelry setting. You’ll see gold jewelry in famous paintings from this time as well, with society women showing off their collections.
how to buy antique gold jewelry - gold bracelets
  • We jump ahead to the Retro Era, where we see the most use of gold in modern history. The 1940's marks a change in jewelry as World War II puts a halt on the use of precious metals, platinum being one of them. Platinum was the primary metal of choice for jewelry in the early 1900's, until the Retro Era. Trying to stretch gold as far as it could, a low karat gold alloy was used with a higher copper percentage, thus resulting in a gold with a reddish color to it. During this time you’ll start to see various colors of gold such as rose, pink and even greenish gold.
  • Jewelers started getting creative during this time by braiding and coiling gold. You’ll see gold tassels and fringes, both as the main component of say a necklace, but also an accessory to the piece. Gold was no longer just part of the setting, but part of the design and decoration. Chunky gold bracelets were a huge trend during this time.
  • You’ll also start to see the rise of gold in accessories, such as compact cases, lipstick holders, cigarette holders, lighters and purses.  

soviet union gold hallmark

What to Look for in Antique Gold Jewelry

When looking to purchase Antique Gold Jewelry, the most important things to look for are hallmarks.

These come in various forms, such as purity marks and makers marks. 

  • Purity marks are especially important in gold, as these denote what karatage the item is. You’ll see marks from 8K-24K in both this format and the metric format. Metric system will express purity as part of thousands. 14K gold will be stamped 585, 18K gold will be stamped 750 and 24K gold will be stamped 1000. 1000/1000 is the purest gold in this metric system.
  • Maker’s marks can help you figure out where an item is from, such as France versus Italy. Some will be symbols, such as crowns, while others will be letters that stand for the jeweler or jewelry firm responsible for the piece.

The study of hallmarks is very extensive as there were many different markers used. There are few databases out there that have compiled as many hallmarks as they know. One top site is Lang Antiques.

Where to Buy Antique Gold Jewelry

Antique Gold Jewelry can be purchased at Antique Stores or retailers who have an Estate Section. Online is a great source for these items as well. Be sure to use our tips above and ask for many images. You’ll want to see images of all hallmarks the item has. The person you purchase from should be a reputable and reliable source.

Two reputable shops we recommend are on Etsy.

  • Boylerpf has a great selection of Antique Gold Jewelry. Some are just plain gold, while others are fashioned with gemstones.
  • Trademark Antiques also has a fair amount of Antique Gold Jewelry.


Antique Gold Jewelry has stood the test of time, allowing you to wear a piece that has both character and charm. These pieces are not only rich in color, but in history. We hope you’ll be able to use this blog as a guideline to find a piece you will truly cherish.

Please leave any questions you have in the comments below and we will do our best to answer them!

Happy Antiquing,

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10 thoughts on “Antique Gold Jewelry – What to Look for and Where to Buy”

  1. Thank you for this great information on how to find antique gold jewellery. I was looking for some channels where I could purchase antique gold jewellery and then resell them ? When I check most web based online auctions, they all seem to have new stuff that was from bankruptcy or insurance…. you know what I mean?

    • Hi Sophia, I wrote an article on selling vintage jewelry that you can check out. If you want to buy antique gold jewelry to resell, I would stick to flea markets, garage sales, thrift stores. Try and find places where the price won’t be marked up really high, so you can actually sell it for a profit.

  2. Thank you for the tutorial on what to look for and where to buy vintage jewelry. I wish I read this a week earlier; I think my Mom would have really liked something like this for mother’s day.

    Buying something unique that isn’t available in stores is something she always loves.

    How often do people try to pass off jewelry as antique? I’m guessing it is fairly common.

    • Hi Ernest, thanks for stopping in! I am sure your mother would have loved that. Oh well, there is always next year 🙂

      You are correct, it is pretty common for jewelry to be passed off as antique. That is why shopping at reputable dealers is so important. We have a list of our favorite sellers here: The Best Vintage Jewelry Shops on Etsy

  3. Omg, I love good. However, I had no idea that there was so much that I didn’t know about it. I always thought that 24k gold was all there was. Had no idea that there were variations and percentages etc. This is really cool to know. I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn this much. Now I know what to look for when buyi ng jewelry. Thanks for sharing this valuable information.

  4. This is a great blog about antique gold. You taught me a lot about hallmarks too. I have been given several beautiful bracelets that were my mother’s, all of which are 18K and I have a gorgeous 18K braided necklace my husband gave me years.
    As my taste has changed to sterling silver, I never wear gold anymore and have thought of selling it.
    Do you know about how I would go about this?
    I’ve watched gold documentaries on gold mining, both in Alaska, New Guinea as well as in the Bering Sea. How do they judge it as far as purity goes? Is it just by color?

    • Hi Karen, You have two options, you can try to sell your jewelry as jewelry, or you can try to sell it to someone that just wants the gold. To figure out the value of the gold in your jewelry, first you must weigh each piece. You can then head over to this online calculator to get an idea of what your gold jewelry is worth… Then you just need to find a buyer that will pay you a fair price.

      You may be able to sell your gold jewelry to local jewelers, online jewelers, or pawn shops.

      I am not sure exactly how gold mining works, I know they extract gold from ore with various methods. Ore can be low-grade or high-grade, though I am not sure how they determine that.

      I hope that answers your questions 🙂 Thanks for stopping in!

  5. It really helped when you talked about gold jewelry and how to identify if it’s pure. Recently, my sister mentioned she has an important event coming up and needs to prepare the perfect outfit for it. My sister needs to find some jewelry pieces, so I think your article could help her. Thanks for the advice on gold vintage pieces and how to check their value.

  6. It is so great that I came across your article because recently my friends have given me an antique watch but, unfortunately, I can’t find an application for. In this case I think that it will be reasonable to bring myself a profit and benefit others who are really engaged in collecting antique goods. It is so cool that I came across your article and knew that my watch can be really profitable and widespread in this market. To tell the truth, I wasn’t aware of the fact that a pawn shop has so many advantages and that it would be better for me to sell my watch not through the internet. Before this moment I had been thinking about it. It is not so easy to find a worthy buyer because there are a lot of unreliable ones. I really hope to get a decent price and estimation for my ware that could meet my expectations. Your article was so encouraging and promising and it aroused my trust that I wanted to refer exactly to your company.


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