Relationship Between the Price of Gold and the Price of Your Jewelry

Understanding how the price of an underlying jewelry metal, such as gold, impacts the price of your finished jewelry.

5 Minute Read

HomeLearning CenterJewelry and LapidaryJewelry MetalsRelationship Between the Price of Gold and the Price of Your Jewelry

The price relationship between a fine piece of gold jewelry and the gold content generally isn't all that predictably strict anyway. It's true that as the ounce price of gold rises or falls there is somewhat of a price shift - admittedly, this occurs most readily when your price is going up in response to a change.

Gold jewelry, for the most part, is priced for the creativity, workmanship, and exclusivity of an item. Stock items such as engagement rings, earrings mountings, etc. reflect gold ounce prices most.

Please remember that gold is primarily a commodity. There is an international market for the metal with publicly published prices. Because this price changes daily- and in quick response to every crises, minor or major, in the world- its gyrations are, to be sure, volatile.

The jewelry industry operates essentially on "gold price on date of delivery." That means that manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers, don't know one day to the next what their gold purchases - or unfilled orders- are going to cost. When the order is filled from a supplier, the daily gold price is consulted and the metal is priced accordingly.

Retailers do their best at adjusting store prices to accommodate the rise and fall in their inventory values, but they are restricted somewhat by customer resistance to higher prices and to much price changing. As a result, many jewelers tend to price their merchandise at a level that will protect them up to a certain gold price threshold.

So long as international gold prices remain below a jeweler's own threshold number the retail prices in that store will tend to remain constant. But they're understandably sticky about cutting prices. (After all, prices might go right back up tomorrow and then a jeweler must change again- much to the consternation of customers who hold back when prices are unpredictable. After all, customers justifiably reason, why not hold off and see if the price drops again tomorrow? If it does, why not wait another day, etc. etc.? Such much-to-be-avoided "Games That People Play" between a jeweler and potential customers may allow the customer the luxury of a long wait; it will send the jeweler spinning into bankruptcy.)

As you perhaps already know, the price of gold is set daily in the London gold market where huge transactions between corporations, institutions, governments, and individuals occur. Buyers and sellers actually establish the price according to supply and demand.

The different amounts and prices are all transactions which cause the price fluctuations. At the end of the day the day's prices are averaged and published. And that's how we get the announcement, "Today, gold closed on the London exchange at -"

A daily price quote is easily obtained from banks, commodity brokers, coin and precious metal dealers - and from the financial page of the daily newspaper. It's based on the sale of the large 400 ounce (27.4 pounds) bars, known affectionately as "Good Delivery" bar. These bars represent the universally recognized medium of exchange between large banks and nations.

They are the biggest bars made from monetary purposes with a purity of .995. For these bars there is essentially little or now premium charged in their sale. Any amount of gold sold or purchased which is smaller than a "Good Deliver Bar" involves some kind of premium, commission, or brokerage fee added to the basic gold price.

Smaller bars com in 100 ounce size (6.85 pounds average) although the most popular seems to be the one kilo bar of 32.15 troy ounces (2.2 pounds average). Like the 100-ounce bar, the one kilo bars are produced in several grades of fineness, .995 and up.

There are also a variety of bars that refiners produce ranging in size from a single ounce up to 10 ounces.

All bars, you should know, are stamped with the fineness, weight and registration number. Some refiners also add their name as do some banks when issuing a bar.

It is generally regarded as prudent for an investor to ask for an assay of a bar which has been removed from the bank storage vault and later sold.

Because many investors wish to get into the gold market less expensively many small gold bars, wafers, coins, etc. are available and are sold by banks, coin shops, department stores, mail order houses, and jewelers.

Here's something that isn't generally recognized about these so-called small 24K "investment" items. When they're less than ½ ounce they are usually marked 24 karats - without the percentage of fineness. Without a fineness stamp, this places the item out of the money and into the jewelry category. If a bail or ring has been soldered on, then they can legally be as low as 23 karat. And you can bet that many such so called 24K investment pieces (?) will still be around until they are all sold.

If you're buying it for investment, be prepared to accept the lower tolerance possibility- or buy something with a fineness stamp. Also, the mark-up is quite stiff, usually two or three times the price of gold… even without a fineness stamp. Most financial advisors agree that the most economic purchase for gold investors (vs. jewelry) is a legitimate coin purchased from a reputable gold dealer where the commission usually runs 15% to 75% depending on the size coin.

Selling gold?

Small amounts of gold can be sold directly for immediate payment to a number of buyers… and their identity and availability can be easily located in the daily newspaper or in the Yellow Pages. Your best outlet here would be a jewelry store, jewelry supply house, coin dealer, precious metal buyers or, if you can locate a willing one, a small refiner.

Refineries generally aren't too interested in buying a quantity smaller than 100 ounces. That seems to be their profit break.

It goes without saying that your best price will come from a reputable and, probably, local dealer.

Your best protection against an inappropriate buying or selling price is still your own knowledge.

You should know how to weigh gold, recognize the vocabulary of gold dealing, and be capable of testing gold for its content. This way, you'll know going into a bargaining transaction when a reasonable offer to buy or sell has been proffered.

First though, you should approach gold with a reasonable attitude. At less weight than a Good Delivery Bar there is no realistic way for you to buy gold at the London price; you must and will pay a premium.

The middleman with whom you're involved must be reimbursed for his time, talent, risk and investment. Whether that's a precious metal dealer or a jeweler they are entitled to a fair profit. If gold must be refined or worked in any way, there is a refiner and craft charge for that work -and this will be an add-on to the commodity price.

So be prepared to pay more than the daily quote.


Dr. Gerald Wykoff GG CSM

Dr. Gerald Wykoff is GG (Graduate Gemologist), a CSM (Certified Supreme Master gemcutter), educator, and author of several gemology books. He founded the American Society of Gemcutters in the 1980s and served for more than 10 years as the editor of its monthly magazine, American Gemcutter.

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