Selling gold at auction: how valuable is gold?

Until about 50 years ago, gold was the backbone of the world’s currency markets and is still regarded one of the most sought-after commodities. The metal’s resilience, symbolism and beauty also makes it one of the most valuable assets to sell at auction.

Gold, unlike other metals like silver or platinum, does not tarnish over time because it is chemically inactive. It is a relatively heavy metal, giving it an expensive feel, but is soft and easy to manipulate for reuse.

All the gold that has ever been produced still exists today – and if every piece of gold known to man was melted down, it would fit into about three Olympic sized swimming pools! There is relatively little gold left in the ground to be mined today.

Around half of all gold is used in jewellery, according to the World Gold Council. And around half of the world’s gold demand is in China and India.

How to determine the value of gold

The purity of gold is measured in karats. The number of karats describes how much gold content is in the jewellery, so for example 16K gold is 16/24 parts gold. Due to gold’s softness, it’s often alloyed with harder metals like copper or silver to improve the jewellery’s strength.

You can determine the quality of a piece of gold jewellery from its ‘k’ karat marking (not to be confused with carats that measure the weight of precious gems). This is often accompanied by the manufacturers’ trademark, which verifies that the karat marking is accurate. The most valuable gold is pure gold, 24k. Anything under around 14k might be considered costume jewellery. Keep in mind that the other contents of the jewellery i.e. precious stones will contribute to the overall value of the piece.

There are other ways gold is used in jewellery-making which are noteworthy but not as valuable as the number karats. This includes gold plated jewellery (having a thin layer of gold on the surface of another material), or gold leaf (wrapped with a very thin layer of gold sheet).

The type of gold is also significant:

  • Yellow gold is made by mixing pure gold with copper, zinc and silver. It requires the least maintenance, has the purest colour and is hypo-allergenic.
  • Rose gold is the most durable gold because its rose colour comes from the use of copper, as well as silver. Its also the most inexpensive because of its copper contents.
  • White gold is more affordable and durable than yellow gold and is scratch-resistant. It’s most often made of gold and platinum, but can also be made of gold, nickel, zinc and palladium.

These are just some considerations when it comes to estimating the value of gold jewellery or other gold items. The best way to find out how valuable your gold items might be is to request a valuation from an expert auctioneer who can offer advice on current market demands and the quality, age and estimated value of your gold items.

Have a look at other gold items that we’ve sold to get an idea of the value of different types of gold.

Highlights of valuable gold items sold at auction:

Cartier: an 18ct. rose gold ‘Love’ bangle, sold for £2,200 in the Fine Art Auction.

Omega Constellation: a gentleman's gold-plated and stainless steel automatic chronometer wristwatch, sold for £800 in the Fine Art Auction.

The Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Knight Commander (Military) KCB, comprising: Victorian 18ct yellow gold and enamel neck badge, by R & S Garrard & Co, 1877, with enamel, on deep red ribbon with yellow metal clasp, and a white metal star, with yellow metal mounts and enamel, sold for £3,600.

An Edwardian 9ct. gold presentation cup, sold for £3,500.

Lot 516-A George V 9ct. yellow gold cigarette box, by B.H....

A George V 9ct. yellow gold cigarette box, by B.H. Britton & Sons, Birmingham 1921, sold for £2,000.

Lot 128-Duke of Northumberland mourning ring

18ct. yellow gold Duke of Northumberland mourning ring, sold for £2,500 in The Fine Art Auction.

Lot 170-James II gold five guineas

James II (1685-88) gold five guineas, 1688, first laur. bust left, legend and toothed border surrounding, sold for £8,800 in The Stamps, Postal History, Postcards & Coins Auction

Lot 846-Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust: a lady's 18k...

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust: a lady's 18k gold and diamond bracelet watch, sold for £4,500 in our Fine Art Auction.

Lot 1159-A 19th Century Spanish gold and silver damascened ...

A 19th Century Spanish gold and silver damascened forged iron marriage casket, sold for £8,000 in The Fine Art Auction.

Lot 177-Golden Jubilee gold proof set

Royal Mint United Kingdom Golden Jubilee gold proof set, 2002, each of the nine tender (£5 to 1p) coins and four maundy coins (4d to 1d) struck in 22ct gold, sold for £4,600 in The Stamps, Postal History, Postcards & Coins Auction.

Gold valuations

We are always consigning for gold to sell at auction.  

Our auctioneers are interested in gold items including gold necklaces, earrings, cigarette cases, vesta cases, gold chains, bracelets, bangles, gold coins, watches, pendants, gold cups & trophies, rings, ingots, bars of gold and other gold objects.

Submit a gold valuation for the opportunity to have your gold items included in an upcoming auction, or ring us on 0191 430 3000 to arrange a valuation appointment at our Newcastle salesroom.



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