There are so many rock-bottom bargains on eBay, especially with jewellery items, that it's all too easy to lose sight of what you're actually bidding on and buying. There's fine jewellery and there's costume jewellery - expensive and cheap - superior quality and inferior quality. There's absolutely nothing wrong with costume jewellery but make sure you haven't paid a fine jewellery price for it!
The descriptions that accompany "gold" items are limitless. Ruthless sellers will often make a fake item appear to be more expensive than what it's worth in a number of ways. Firstly, they'll list it in "Fine Jewellery" instead of costume jewellery. Some buyers have felt proud having just paid a mere $30 for a genuine 18K gold bracelet and probably still, to this day are wondering why their wrist is turning green or black. Key words such as "authentic" and "genuine" lull buyers into a false sense of confidence that their purchase is exactly what the seller claims it is. Bad mistake! People can claim what they like but the reality is, unless YOU know the difference and ask the right questions, you'll get a cheap import which is only gold-plated (not solid gold) or electroplated (same problem) or goldtone (metal in a gold colour - no solid gold at all). Any item which is plated will eventually wear away to whatever lies underneath. Often, it's a ghastly coloured metal which will give anyone with sensitive skin a rash from hell. A classic example is Permagold. Within a week of wearing the "real gold" bracelet, I developed a rash, my skin discoloured and the bracelet was tarnishing - yes, the lifetime guarantee "not to tarnish" was absolute rubbish.
Rule number one: always ask the seller if the gold is hallmarked. Gold is stamped according to its purity. You can have 24K, 22K, 18K, 14K, 10K & 9K. Sometimes the hallmark is shown as a fraction (to show its percentage of purity). For example, 9K might be shown as .375 or 18K as .750. That's still not a final guarantee that the item is solid gold because if the letters GP or EP feature next to this hallmark, you guessed it, it's actually only gold plated or electro-plated. If the seller says they're not sure because there's no marking at all, then assume the item is goldtone - not gold at all, just a metal which is gold in colour only. Again, I stress, nothing wrong with the different types of "gold" available - just be aware of the differences and what each type is actually worth.
"But can't I tell by the colour", I hear some of you asking. No. You can't judge gold by its colour. (Especially if we're talking white gold or rose gold). A higher level of purity eg 22K or 24K will be much brighter in colour than 9K which is a different, less brilliant colour gold. It is not an indication of whether an item is solid gold, gold-plate or goldtone. Ironically, the higher purity levels tend to look fake for most of us here in Australia because we're used to buying 18K or 9K gold from jewellers. 10K and 14K are more popular in parts of the U.S. and Europe. In Asian countries, 22K & 24K tend to be more popular.
Finally, in case you're buying any older pre-loved jewellery, solid gold will not tarnish - gold plates and goldtone will. Ask your seller whether the "gold" item is tarnished at all.
Thanks for taking the time to read my guide. I welcome any information to add to this review which may help buyers and sellers when buying gold jewellery.