Buying gold in Turkey, especially gold jewelry, is gaining massive popularity right now with the amazing conversion rate against the declining Turkish Lira and the ability for consumers to purchase directly from sellers without a middleman.
Personally, I’m getting tired of wasting my money on cheap costume jewelry that will start to tarnish and break just after 1 or 2 wears. This fast fashion craze has people consuming accessories at an alarming rate. What at first seems like a good deal, only $89 for a pair of gold-plated earrings, becomes such a liability with how fast they go out of style and start to discolor.
After years of frustration with wasting my money on cheap jewelry, I decided to go on a mission to find great deals on gold in one of the most famous markets in the world, the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. My aim was to find good quality pieces for fair prices that would last for decades instead of a few seasons.
Below you’ll find tips on how to find amazing deals on gold, tricks to test the purity and authenticity of gold jewelry, and everything else I learned during my pursuit of quality gold at the Grand Bazaar in Turkey.
My Hunt For Quality Gold Inside The Grand Bazaar
For this mission, I needed an insider and gold expert to help me. My friend Alyne and I met up with the fourth-generation master jeweler, Nurhan Gümüş. This guy knows his gold, it’s in his blood. His great-grandfather was a gold jeweler in the Grand Bazaar in the 1800s, a profession his entire family has upheld ever since.
We met Nurhan at the southern Carsikapi Gate that leads into Kalpakcilar Caddesi, the gold jeweler’s road of the Grand Bazaar. Before we got into the nitty gritty of gold shopping, he simply took me for a walk up and down the covered streets so I could get a good idea of the immense variety available inside the market. Basically, any kind of silver or gold jewelry you’re looking for, you’ll find it here. If you can’t find it on display, you’ll meet vendors who will custom-make it for you or find you something similar within a few hours.
We spent the entire day inside the market browsing, testing, trying on, and eventually buying many gold pieces, including a vintage Rolex, gold earrings, and a gold necklace. I’m going to share every insider secret and tip I learned during our time with Nurhan, so you can follow in my footsteps with your own Turkish gold shopping spree.
Top 6 Tips For Buying Gold Jewelry in the Grand Bazaar
Ok gold lovers – Here’s what you need to know to be an informed gold buyer to best apply all the tips we have for you throughout this guide.
1. Is it Hallmarked? (stamped)
Make sure the item has the appropriate karat marking stamp, also known as a hallmark.
22k, or 916
18k, or 750
14k, or 585
10k, or 416
This indicates purity and is also a way of confirming the jewelers’ said details.
Best practice: Ask the seller to show you the hallmarks on the piece directly.
2️. Know The Purity (what those hallmarks actually mean)
The purity of gold is determined by karat.
24 Karat gold is 99.9% pure and it descends as you go.
Percent of gold in:
24k = (99.9% gold content)
22k = (91.6% gold content)
18k = (75% gold content)
14k = (58.3% gold content)
10k = (41.6% gold content, which means less than half is gold)
Investing in gold jewelry without checking purity is a BIG NO. The price between something that is 22 karats and 10 karats will vary immensely.
3️. Figure out the Best Price (the tricky part)
The price of the gold jewelry is indicated by its purity as well as how much labor work has been spent while making the piece.
When buying a solid gold item, the best way to compare is apples to apples! Well in this case: karats to karats!
Similar-looking gold items with similar weights might be 1000s of dollars less or more.. HOW?? 🤔
Think of a 100-gram gold chain in 10 karats.. this contains 41.6 grams of gold. But on the other hand, a 100-gram chain of 18-karat gold contains 75 grams of gold!
This alone is a HUGE 34 grams of gold difference!
Best practice: Only compare the same karat items! If you are looking at a 14k chain, compare it to other 14k chains of the same weight.
4️. Determining Weight (How heavy is it?)
It is essential to check the weight of the actual gold item that you are buying. Since other gemstones, materials, or enamel colors can make the weight heavier, you might end up paying a higher price for less gold!
Best practice: Ask the jeweler to weigh it on a scale & take a note of that gram weight
5️. Color Shouldn’t Matter (Yellow, Rose, or White)
Gold can have color variations. Combining pure gold with specific alloy metals will create another color or tone.
Yellow gold has been the most popular tone throughout history. Rose gold & white gold are less popular depending on current trends & international locations.
Best Practice: The color of gold should not make the price cheaper or more expensive.
6. Do the math to get your per-gram cost
How to get your gram cost:
Take the total price of the item & divide it by the weight = YOUR PER GRAM COST
Use that to compare prices of items with different weights & same karat purity.
While the per gram cost does not take other things into consideration, like gems or other details the jewelry might have, or the shop owner’s cost of his storefront, it will give you a good baseline when shopping around.
A lot is to be taken into consideration when making a jewelry purchase, but if you have the exact karats and weight, you can make a great base for comparison.
How to get an actual estimate of how much you should pay for gold jewelry
Below is an equation to use as a rough estimate, using the current rate of gold, to determine if the price they are asking at the Grand Bazaar is fair.
Step 1: Google today’s market rate for gold.
Step 2: Let’s say the market rate for the day is $50 per gram (pure gold). We will take that $50 and multiply it by the purity of the item we are looking at. For this example, we’ll use a piece of jewelry that is 18k gold. 18k has 75% pure gold content.
$50 X 0.75 (purity percent of 18k) = $37.50
$37.50 is the cost per gram of the gold material itself in an 18k piece with today’s rate of $50 per gram.
Step 3: Now, pretend the seller has shown you an 18k bracelet and you’ve put it on the scale to weigh it, and based on the weight and price, you can see he is charging $40 per gram. We can minus the raw cost of the gold from the above equation ($37.50), which means he is charging $2.5 per gram for labor and business costs.
Now, there is no ‘standard’ for how much profit a seller should be making, or how much dollars per gram he is charging for labor and business costs. This varies greatly depending on the actual jewelry itself, how much detail and design it may have, and other factors like his rent and other business costs. What the above equation allows you to do is be better informed about raw costs, compare apples to apples when shopping around, and to feel more comfortable about investing in gold.
Q&A – Buying Gold in Türkiye
Why should people consider buying gold in Turkey? Why not travel to Dubai to buy gold?
Dubai (UAE) and Turkey both have very vibrant gold jewelry industries and both countries export and import billions of dollars a year.
Dubai does have some slight cost advantages compared to Turkey when it comes to machine-made/engineered goods like chains. That’s due to the fact their small and medium-sized businesses have larger budgets available to them for machines to produce highly efficient, machine-made gold items.
Turkey, on the other hand, has two great advantages. One is in the handmade / artisan jewelry department due to the over 5000 year history of jewelry making in Anatolia (current day Turkey). Turkey has an unrivaled history of handmade jewelry that other countries cannot compete with.
The other advantage Turkey has over the UAE is a lower cost of the overall trip. You can stay in Istanbul for a month or longer for what your budget would be for just a few days in Dubai.
Sometimes, it’s not always about the lowest cost, but instead the overall experience.
How can we tell if the gold is real?
One of the easiest and quickest ways to tell if a piece of jewelry, let’s say a necklace in this case, is real solid gold or something else like brass with a cheap gold plating, is to rub a magnet on it.
Keep a small magnet in your pocket at the Grand Bazaar and use it yourself to test any pieces you are looking at. Real gold is not magnetic and it will not stick. Many other cheaper metals are magnetic and will stick immediately.
If the gold is real, how do we know what the karat value is? (Example: 10k, 14k, 18k, etc?)
Sellers at the Grand Bazaar can do an acid test right there in the shop. This involves the piece of jewelry being rubbed on a touchstone usually made of slate, then a specific karat formula of acid is used. So, a 14k gold bracelet will have its own 14-karat acid gold test. Once the acid is dropped on the stone, if the acid eats away at the markings on the stone, it means it is not the karat it states. If the markings do stay with the 14-karat acid, or whichever karat-specific acid test was used, then it’s legit.
There are a lot of gold shops in the Grand Bazaar. How do we find a good one? Anything specific to look for or to avoid?
The best way is to be an informed buyer and know about the basics of gold, i.e. the gram weight, the karat purity, and then checking that the said karat is hallmarked on the piece itself.
Knowing the basic pillars of information allows you to more properly compare when you go in and ask some questions. If you see the salesman can’t point out the markings, doesn’t know about an acid test, or can’t provide the basic information you’re looking for – you can safely assume they are not able to provide professional help. You should be wary of places like that. Most shops are professional and helpful, but of course, it’s a bazaar and an everchanging marketplace so the prices will vary.
X Avoid places that can’t pay much attention to you or can’t provide details quickly.
✓ Do business with stores that can quickly provide information about the pieces, can offer the acid test, and are willing to be patient.
Can I negotiate on price at stores inside the bazaar?
Yes. Always negotiate with sellers. That’s what has been done throughout history at the Grand Bazaar and it will never change.
However, it should be noted that sellers will have different costs of doing business and it may affect how much they can negotiate with you. A shop that has the most prime location and the highest rent in all of the bazaar may not have as much room as a second-level shop. There is no formula for how much to negotiate, but again knowing the basic market value of gold will help immensely in this situation.
Do jewelers in the Grand Bazaar take credit cards or only cash?
Both cash and credit cards are accepted by almost all of the shops inside the Grand Bazaar. There are a few smaller stores that may not take credit cards, but they will usually have a sign-up to inform you. Safe and secure ATMs are available both inside and outside the bazaar.
If you are using a credit card, many vendors will want to charge a processing fee. The fee is usually 2.5% to 3%, but should never be more than 5%.
Can I SELL my personal gold inside the Grand Bazaar?
Yes, there are places called “sarrafiye” in Turkish (gold buyers) located directly inside the bazaar.
Due to the Anatolian / Turkish culture of giving, gifting, & saving gold it’s very common for people to trade their coins, bracelets, & jewelry at these places. You can venture inside the Grand Bazaar and ‘shop’ your gold around to see who’s paying the best prices of the day.
What we bought
Gold Hoop Earrings 6g 14k gold = $190
Gold Necklace 6.7g 14k gold = $230
Gold Huggie Earrings 3.5g 18k gold =$160
Gold Huggie Earrings 3.5g 18k gold =$160
Vintage Rolex $6000 (Ladies DateJust, early 90’s)
Now, some people reading this might think I got ripped off with the Rolex because it ‘wasn’t purchased at an authorized Rolex dealer” but I need to remind you this is Turkey. Since then, I’ve had it verified and I am over the moon with the purchase, since it would have been considerably more if I had purchased it in the Western market.
One of the coolest experiences was getting to follow the seller through some tight alleyways, behind the scenes from the main bazaar, and got to watch how they cleaned our gold before giving it to us.
I could not have made this article without the countless hours and guidance from Nurhan, so I’d like to make a special thank you to him.
Nurhan Gümüş is an Armenian fourth-generation master jeweler in the Grand Bazaar. He’s the founder of GrandBazaarJewelers.com which focuses on wholesale B2B jewelry and TurkishJewelry.com which is the premier jewelry news & trends blog for Turkey. He was born in Istanbul and his family immigrated to the United States in 1980. In the U.S. he started apprenticing at the age of 12 in his family’s jewelry manufacturing business. He relocated back to Istanbul 13 years ago due to its international competitive advantage (and his advantage of being a native English speaker Master Armenian jeweler).
He currently helps entrepreneurs create their own jewelry line and offers one-on-one professional jewelry assistance. You can find him on IG @grandbazaarjewelers
We did the research for this article while being guests in Istanbul with Go Türkiye. While the tourism board graciously hosted our stay, our itinerary and elective activities, such as gold shopping, were on our own budget. Our ideas, opinions, and recommendations remain our own.
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