When it comes to gold jewelry, 12 karat (12K) is not a very commonly used type of gold. Most modern jewelry comes in 10K (suggested article: The Value of 10K Gold), 14K, 18K, or 24K gold. However, there is still some 12K gold jewelry made, and many antique or heirloom pieces may use 12K gold.
Is 12K gold worth anything? Yes. How much depends on two variables though. The 12K gold value can be tricky to determine though an item is either 12K gold is solid or 12K gold-filled. The difference between the two means hundreds of dollars difference in value. Read on to find out more about the ways 12K gold is used in jewelry and how you can calculate its value.
What Is 12K Gold?
In order to understand what 12K gold is, you need to know about the karat scale for gold. A karat is a unit of purity — a measurement of how much of the material is actual gold. Gold is a very soft metal that can be easily scratched or even deformed in its pure form, so it’s often alloyed (combined) with other, harder metals such as bronze, brass, or silver to create durable, lasting jewelry.
Gold karats indicate the percentage of pure gold that’s found in a piece. Here are the standard karat measures used, and how much gold each one contains.
- 10K: Contains 41.6% gold
- 12K: Contains 50% gold
- 14K: Contains 58.3% gold
- 18K: Contains 75% gold — If you’re wondering about the value of 18K gold, check out this article that covers that.
- 22K: Contains 92% gold
- 24K: Pure 100% gold
Items that are 12K have been made with 50% gold and 50% other types of metal. However, most 12K jewelry that is made today is not actual 12K gold. Read on to find out how 12K gold is usually sold.
How to Identify 12K Gold Jewelry
In some cases, actual 12K gold is still used to make jewelry. One example is Black Hills Gold Jewelry, a distinctive jewelry style manufactured in the Black Hills of South Dakota that features tri-colored gold grape clusters, leaves, and vines. The leaves of Black Hills Gold jewelry pieces are made with solid 12K gold, while the other components are 10K or 14K gold.
How can you tell if a piece of jewelry is solid 12K gold? All precious metal jewelry is stamped with a hallmark that indicates the purity of the metal used in the piece. Gold hallmarks are indicated either with a number and the letter K, or a three-digit number representing the percentage of gold in the piece, to the first decimal point.
Common gold hallmarks include:
- 10 Karat solid gold: May read 10K, 10KT, 10CT, or 417 (41.7% gold)
- 12 Karat solid gold: May read 12K, 12KT, 12CT, or 500 (50% gold)
- 14 Karat solid gold: May read 14K, 14KT, 14CT, or 585 (58.5% gold)
- 18 Karat solid gold: May read 18K, 18KT, 18CT, or 750 (75% gold) (suggested article: How to Determine the Value of Your 750 Gold)
- 22 Karat solid gold: May read 22K, 22KT, 22CT, or 917 (91.7% gold)
- 24 Karat solid gold: May read 24K, 24KT, 24CT, 999, or 999.9 (99.9% solid gold)
What Is Gold-Filled Jewelry?
Most 12K gold jewelry is actually either gold-filled or gold-plated. Gold-filled jewelry is made by fusing a layer of solid gold onto a base metal piece, giving the appearance of gold at a lower value. 12K gold is most commonly used for gold-filled pieces, rather than solid gold jewelry.
The gold hallmark for gold-filled jewelry is usually 1/20 12K GF. The 1/20 number indicates that one-twentieth of the piece, or 5%, is solid 12K gold, while the remaining 19/20 (95%) is made with a base metal alloy. GF stands for gold-filled.
Gold-filled jewelry may also come in 1/5 12K GF (one-fifth, or 20% solid 12K gold) and 1/10 12K GF (one-tenth, or 10% solid 12K gold). However, any material that is less than 1/20 solid gold is considered gold-plated jewelry, and may be marked in any of the following ways:
- RGP: Rolled Gold Plate
- HGP: Heavy Gold Plate
- GEP: Gold Electroplate
- HGE/HGEP: Heavy Gold Electroplate
Gold-plated jewelry is usually either 1/40 or 1/50 pure gold, and is worth considerably less than gold-filled jewelry.
12K Gold Value
Since solid 12K gold is 50% gold, it can be worth a decent amount of money. Gold-filled 12K jewelry is typically between 5% and 20% 12K gold, of which only 50% is pure gold, which means the value is lower than solid 12K pieces.
We’ve included a detailed look at both retail and scrap (selling) prices for 12K gold in the sections below.
Retail Prices of 12K Gold
When you purchase jewelry crafted by a jeweler or designer, you are paying for the cost of the materials and a markup for labor and retail profit. You can expect the retail price of gold jewelry to be roughly double the value of the gold contained in the piece.
Gold value is determined by the jewelry’s karat and weight — usually measured in grams, although some jewelers and gold dealers use pennyweight (DWT) as a weight measure. One DWT equals approximately 1.5 grams. The current price of gold on the market, commonly called the gold spot price, is also used to determine gold value. The gold spot price varies daily depending on the market.
Although there are many factors that go into retail pricing for gold jewelry, our research into various retailers and their catalogs found that the average retail prices for 12K gold pieces are approximately:
- 12K gold necklace: $700-$800 (solid); $75-$150 (gold-filled)
- 12K gold bracelet: $350-$500 (solid); $35-$100 (gold-filled)
- 12K gold ring: $250-$350 (solid); $25-$75 (gold-filled)
Scrap Prices of 12K Gold
What about selling your 12K gold jewelry? For solid 12K gold pieces, you can expect to receive around $19 per gram from gold buyers. For example, a 20-gram solid 12K necklace would bring around $380. You can use the Midstate Recycling Karat Kalculator to find out approximately how much your solid 12K gold is worth when sold as scrap.
Gold-filled items are worthless as scrap, as they are not solid gold. As an example, a 1/20 12K GF item would be worth around $1 per gram when sold as scrap. If you’re wondering how much you might be able to sell your gold-filled jewelry for, check out the Gold-N-Scrap Gold Filled Calculator for an approximate price.
Is 12K gold worth anything? Yes. 12K gold is still used to make jewelry today, although it’s less common than other types of gold. Jewelry that is solid 12K gold has both retail and scrap value, and you can make some money selling your pieces. If your jewelry is gold filled or gold plated, it’s essentially worthless when it comes to resale value except for if you’d like to sell it yourself on Craigslist.