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Is My Gold Jewelry Worth More Than Scrap?

If you have unused gold jewelry lying around or packed away, you might be considering selling it for cash so you can buy something you really want. Of course, getting the highest dollar payout for your gold jewelry is a priority; the question is, is your gold worth more when sold as jewelry or when sold as scrap? The following guide will help you determine how to sell your gold jewelry for the greatest payout.

Know what you have

A lot of jewelry is handed down through family generations, which makes knowing the source of a given ring, necklace, bracelet, or brooch next to impossible. Still, it's important to know what you have before you decide to sell. Taking your jewelry to a trained jeweler or jewelry appraiser is the best way to figure out what you have. You can also consult jewelry price guides, which feature pictures for comparison purposes. As a general rule, here are some things to look for:


If the gemstones on your gold jewelry are real, they could be worth a substantial sum when sold separately from the gold itself. On the other hand, certain vintage (older than 25 years) or antique (older than 100 years) pieces could have greater value when sold intact.

Gold hallmarks

Most gold jewelry is stamped with hallmarks that indicate their karat values. The greater the karat value, the greater the percentage of gold in a given piece. Common karat values include:

24 karat gold is 99.9% pure gold
18 karat gold is 75% gold (18 parts gold and 6 parts alloy)
12 karat gold is 50% gold (12 parts gold, 12 parts alloy)

Gold hallmarks aren't necessarily standardized, and some old pieces don't have hallmarks at all. An 18 karat gold ring could be marked in any of the following ways:


Knowing the composition of gold, coupled with its Troy weight (ounces), will help you determine its scrap value, which can be compared to its market value to help you make a smart selling decision.

Maker's marks

Similar to gold hallmarks, many jewelers include maker's marks on their jewelry. Maker's marks can be used to identify who created a given piece, which can also lend insight into its age, rarity, and manufacturing process (handcrafted versus factory, for example).

Is my gold jewelry more valuable than its weight in gold?

Again, the best way to answer that question is to have your jewelry professionally appraised by a knowledgeable jeweler. There are several notable examples of jewelry that commanded more value than the sum of their parts, if you will, including an 18k gold armband made by Boucheron, a Parisian jeweler, that was worth approximately $4,000 in gold scrap but more than $40,000 as an intact piece of jewelry (Skinner).

As in the aforementioned case, the maker of a piece of jewelry can directly impact its value – and even pieces that look poorly-made can be valuable, as their imperfections are a result of handcrafting and not manufacturing defects. Some notable jewelers include Boucheron, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Castellani, to name a few, but there are many others. Finally, some valuable jewelry isn't marked at all – reinforcing the need for a skilled jewelry appraiser. Kovels is an online resource that can help you determine the market value f your gold jewelry, and there are many books written on the subject you can reference.

All that said, the vast majority of gold jewelry has little resale value. Even pieces that look as though they could be old and valuable are often reproductions. Sellers often have high hopes of hitting the jackpot, only to be disappointed when they learn their jewelry isn't worth anything. So, chances are the value of your gold jewelry lies in its gold alone.

If you suspect one of your gold pieces could be more valuable than the gold it contains, have it professionally appraised. If it is indeed valuable, you can try to sell it to collectors or via an auction house, which will probably net you more money in the long run. If your gold piece is only worth its weight in gold, then you should seek out the greatest payout for its gold value.

How to get the greatest payout for your gold jewelry

Once you’ve ruled out any extraneous value, you can still maximize your payout by comparing offers from gold buyers. Even though most gold jewelry doesn’t carry collectible value, it is worth its weight in gold – and gold is always valuable.