What to look for in a gold appraisal

If you own a piece of gold jewellery or item containing the precious metal, you’ve likely wondered at some point what it’s worth.

Gold, which is one of the most valuable precious metals in the world market, is often considered to be a good investment. Case in point: Gold reached an all-time high (USD $2,074.88) in August 2020, the first year of the pandemic. From 2005 to 2020, the price of gold increased by 330%

Whether you want to sell your decorative piece, religious artifact or gold coin, or you simply want to know its “story,” you can find out — officially — with a gold appraisal. 

An appraisal is a document that certifies how much a piece of gold or jewellery is worth and how the valuation was performed.

People tend to get appraisals for one of three reasons. Often it’s for insurance purposes. An appraisal includes detailed information about an item, including value and description, which is helpful for claims or in determining ownership. The other two reasons are for estate and resale purposes.   

[Read our blog: Types Of Gold You Can Sell]

More than just money

But the value of your golden item goes beyond market prices, which fluctuate according to factors in the global economy. There are other things to consider, and that’s where an appraiser comes in. Gold jewellery valuation is a precise and sometimes complex artform that involves both human expertise and technological prowess.

First off, gold appraisals and gold jewellery appraisals are different. With gold, the value is based on two factors: weight and purity. For gold jewellery, the piece is evaluated based on all of its characteristics, which includes overall condition, gemstone quality, jewellery settings and the presence of other metals.

Gold valuation is based on the weight of the item and the purity of the metal (this process also applies to silver and platinum), based on a worldwide standard. Put simply: the higher the weight of the gold, the higher its value, and the higher the gold’s purity, the higher its value. Purity refers to the ratio of gold to the amount of other metals and is measured in karats, shown as 12kt, 18kt, or 20 kt. (For reference, pure gold is 24 karats). The gold appraisal process is easier if there are special stamps or marks.

Meaningful marks

Manufacturers’ marks, which are stamped directly into the precious metal, are important to gold jewellery appraisal. There are three types, all used to provide more details about the origin and content of a piece:

  • Hallmarks: Also called “purity marks,” these are authenticity seals that guarantee the amount of precious metal present in a piece
  • Trademarks and maker’s marks: These are official “signatures” of the jewellery designer or maker, providing authenticity of the piece’s origin
  • Date marks: These marks indicate the date the piece was created


Manufacturers’ marks are typically very small and can be challenging to locate — sometimes they’re made inside the clasp of a necklace or on the post of an earring. For rings, the marks are typically stamped on the inside of the circle. 

[Read our blog: Coins: How They Are Engraved]

Tools of the trade

To see these marks and perform full evaluations of a piece, appraisers use the following tools:

  • Loupe: A small optical device, used a close distance to the eye, that magnifies the maker’s numbers and letters
  • Scale: A tool that determines the weight of the piece of jewellery and related measurements
  • Microscope: Using special lighting and scopes, it provides a clear view of the gems and other elements of the piece


To determine the purity of gold without marks, appraisers can use either an electronic gold testing kit or acid testing, the more popular method. To conduct an acid test, the appraiser rubs a small sample of the gold onto a touchstone, then adds a small drop of acid (each of the acid options determines a specific purity) from the kit onto the sample. The reaction to the acid reveals the gold’s karat level. (And don’t worry: This process is safe).

With all of this mind, it’s time to find an appraiser you can trust. When looking for a jewellery appraiser, ensure they are trained in gemology and valuation. The main body that oversees jewellery appraisers in Canada is the Canadian Jewellers Association

The value of valuations

Although costs vary, you can expect to pay $50 to $150 per hour for an appraisal, depending on the complexity of the piece or number of items (obviously, if you have multiple items, the valuation will take longer). Some shops, such as those that buy gold, provide free appraisals. Typically, it takes anywhere from a few days to a week or more to get the official valuation from a professional appraiser.

[Read our blog: 10 Most Valuable Coins In Tthe World]

Before your visit, gather as much information as you can about your golden item. If you have previous appraisals, certificates or receipts, bring those along to your appointment. If you know any history or other details about the item (rareness, unique features), that’s helpful too. All of this information comes together into the most comprehensive appraisal possible. 

With your appraisal in hand, you have the story of your piece of gold or gold jewellery. You have proof of the item’s value (always dependent on the market) and its characteristics. It’s a worthy investment whether you simply want to know your gold’s worth or you need official documentation for insurance or resale purposes. 

If you’re curious about how you can get cash for your gold, we can help. Reach out to Century Stamps & Coins and book an appointment for a free appraisal at our coin shop, which serves Mississauga and Toronto.