How to tell if your jewelry is made of actual gold or sterling silver.
Jewelry made of actual gold and sterling silver will have purity stamps on them. You will usually find the stamp on the clasp or closure of your jewelry, and if it's a ring you should see it on the inside rim of the ring.
The stamp for sterling silver is the easiest to validate as it will always be 925 for sterling silver. This number stands for 92.5% of pure silver in the metal used to make the jewelry. 100% silver is not recommended to use in jewelry making as it is too soft.
Purity stamp for gold jewelry can have more variation. The variation of numbers will depend on the grade/karat of the gold. The stamp will consist of a number and a letter K that stands for karat. You might have seen pieces of jewelry stamped with 10K, 14K, 18K, or 22K. The number represents how many parts of gold there is out of 24 particles in the metal used for that piece of jewelry. For example for 10K or 10 karat gold, the metal used to make the jewelry will have 10 parts pure gold and 14 parts of other metals such as silver, nickel, palladium, zinc, or copper.
Gold can also be stamped with numbers such as 417, 585, 750 or 916. These numbers represent the percentage of gold in the metal used for the jewelry. For example, 417 means the metal consists 41.7 % of pure gold. So on and so forth.
Here is a guide of the stamp equivalents:
417 10 karat (41.7%)
585 14 karat (58.5%)
750 18 karat (75.0%)
916 22 karat (91.6%)
The choice of which karat one should purchase is personal. It may come down to the cost, the shade of gold one prefers to wear or one's value or perception in regards to monetary investment in gold.
Keep in mind...
When buying jewelry made of precious metals there is an opportunity for it to be an investment as their dollar value can go up over time. But the dollar value isn’t the only reason for it to be considered as an investment purchase. It’s the long wear time you get out of the pieces. It’s the sentimental value that's gained as you own it for years to come, evolving with your story with a possibility of passing that story down to your kids, your friends or even your nephews/nieces.