13 gold and jewelry terms to know

Selling jewelry and gold can always be a great way to turn old, tucked-away items into cash – especially when the price of gold is as high as it is right now. But before getting involved in the market, it can be helpful to understand exactly what you’re getting into from a selling perspective.

Here are 13 key gold and jewelry terms to know to help educate yourself.


An alloy is a combination of two or more metals that come together to create more desirable characteristics or added strength. Sterling silverware, for example, is typically made from an alloy of 92.5% silver and 7.5% of a more resilient base metal like copper in order to increase durability and usability in dining.

Dental alloys are also common, and are categorized as either precious, semi-precious, or non-precious based on their level of precious metal content. Precious dental alloys are typically composed of at least 40%-80% gold and may include other high-noble metals such as palladium, platinum, and silver.


Assay refers to the process of determining the specific composition of a precious metal, such as a gold wedding ring, a piece of sterling silverware, or a platinum necklace. An assay can also be used to ensure a piece of gold or silver meets certain purity standards. Plumb gold is a technical term that many are not familiar with. This simply means the karat stamp (such as 10K or 14K) is true and is not rounded off of half-karated gold.

Certain pieces may come with a proof of assay such as a card or a certificate, both of which are designed to display proof of purity and authenticity. Such a proof of assay can help verify for buyers and investors that their purchase is indeed pure and legitimate.

Base metal

Base metal informally refers to non-precious metals such as copper, zinc, or nickel, which are often used in certain costume jewelry (jewelry made with inexpensive materials or imitation gems) or in plated items.

Gold-plated jewelry, for example, is made of a base metal other than gold and then covered in a thin gold coating. Gold-filled jewelry also typically has a base metal of brass or copper that is then covered with sheets of gold.


Bullion refers to gold or silver often kept in the form of bars, ingots, or coins that is officially recognized as being at least 99.5% pure. It is often kept as a reserve asset by governments and central banks, but is also frequently sold on the open market as a means of returning fungible value to the owner.

Bullion’s value is determined by the type and weight of the metal. Because bullion is a physically cumbersome material, it can also be invested in, bought, or sold in the form of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or futures contracts.

The Four Cs

The Four Cs are the four primary characteristics used to determine the quality and value of a diamond – which is the leading factor when selling your diamond. The Four Cs are: carat, clarity, color, and cut.


A diamond’s mass or weight is measured in carats, which is the most objective component of the Four Cs. Price per carat typically increases according to a diamond’s size.


Clarity is used to measure the fire and brilliance of a diamond and its number of flaws. The fewer flaws a diamond has, the greater its clarity will be, which also typically results in a higher value for the stone. Internal flaws in the diamond are known as inclusions, while external flaws are known as blemishes.


A diamond’s color is categorized on a scale as being either white (colorless) to yellow and brown. There are also fancy colors such as blue, red, and pink, that tend to be less common. The hue and intensity of a diamond’s color can have a big impact on its value. Since diamonds can have very subtle color differences, color-grading diamonds requires significant experience and training.


Cut refers to a diamond’s shape and facets and is said to have the greatest impact of all the Four Cs on a diamond’s beauty. This is because the more facets a diamond has, the more it will usually sparkle. The highly popular round brilliant cut diamond, for example, has 57 facets, compared to the 44 facets of the rectangular emerald.


Patina is the term for natural discoloration that occurs over time to metals such as silver, bronze, and copper. While it might sound undesirable at first, a natural patina can add aesthetic appeal to certain pieces. Sterling and silver-plated items can both develop a patina or tarnish, thus being an ideal characteristic in judging its purity.

Precious metals

The term “precious metals” refers to metals that are rare and that have a high economic value. There are five precious metals: gold, silver, platinum, palladium, and rhodium. Precious metals primarily have value due to their scarcity, real-world applicability, and/or their ability to store value throughout history.

Certain precious metals used to serve as the backing for currencies but now serve as a popular means of diversifying portfolios as a hedge against inflation – especially in the case of gold. Jewelry and bullion made from precious metals are also popular and can often be sold for significant amounts to the right buyer.

Spot price

Spot price is the current market value for which an asset can be bought or sold. The spot price of gold at the time of writing, for example, is $1,860 per ounce. Spot prices are changing all the time, just as with any other asset or commodity.

Troy ounce

A troy ounce (ozt) is a unit of troy weight used for weighing precious metals that dates back to the Middle Ages. A troy ounce contains 20 pennyweights (dwt) which equates to 31.1 grams. The main purpose of the troy ounce is to ensure that common measures remain consistent over time.

Get more for your gold with Gold Guys

The price of gold is higher now than it has been in years, meaning now is the perfect time to see what your items are worth. At Gold Guys, we are dedicated to getting you a high price for your jewelry, gold, and other precious metals, using our expertise to help you maximize your profit while ensuring the process is easy and painless.

We work with you to ensure you’re in control of the transaction from start to finish at no cost to you.

Contact us today to learn more about selling your gold, jewelry, and other precious metals for a great price with Gold Guys.