Jordan // Amman //

Buying gold

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Prices for gold jewellery in Amman are some of the cheapest in the world. Not only is there a constant, massive demand in Jordan for gold, used in marriage dowries, but workmanship on gold jewellery is charged by weight here – which turns out to be very economical by world standards. The upshot is that it’s well-nigh impossible to find the same quality of work or purity of gold outside Jordan for less than three or four times the Amman price. In the Downtown Gold Souk, you can be paying a measly few dinars per gram for finished pieces in 21-carat gold (which is very popular, partly because its orangey-yellow hue looks good against darker skin, and partly because its purity and investment value make it most desirable for dowries).

When buying, you have to know, at least sketchily, what you’re looking at and what you want, and you have to be prepared to devote some hours to making a purchase. Browsing from shop to shop to get a sense of the market can be a pleasure: Jordan is mercifully free of the kind of tedious hard-sell haggling for which the Middle East is notorious. Be aware that there are no hallmarks; instead, look for a stamp indicating gold purity in parts per thousand: ”875” indicates 21-carat, while ”750” is 18-carat. When you buy, you will be given two receipts: one for the per-gram market value of the item, another for the cost of the workmanship. The honour system among gold merchants – both in the Downtown Gold Souk and elsewhere – is very strong, and means that it is very unlikely you’ll be misled. Styles of jewellery vary – although everyone will happily make you up a necklace of a gold tag shaped with your name in Arabic – and, with prices as low as they are, commissioning a custom-made piece to your own design doesn’t command the kind of absurd prices that the same thing in the West might do.

Silver is sold in the same way as gold, although it is much less popular and you may have to search for it; prices, though, can be absurdly low. All jewels or precious stones on sale in Jordan are imported.

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