Egypt: Shopping for Gold in Egypt

Shopping for Gold in Egypt

by Seif Kamel

A selection of gold jewelry from the el-Sagha district in Cairo

Egypt has always been famous for gold. The skin of the ancient gods was said to have been made of gold, and so it was frequently used for making statues, but it was also used to gild various items, sometimes including entire building elements and of course, to make jewelry. Also, as a compound together with silver, it produced electrum which was often used, for example, to cap obelisks. Though Egypt had few of its own gold mines, gold was one of the reasons that Egypt maintained such an interest in Nubia over many thousands of years. Nubia, it seems, had an abundance of gold

Inside the Yasin Elish Shop in Game' Square in Cairo

resources. Today, Egyptians continue to prize gold, as one might suppose by the sheer number of jewelers showcasing vast quantities of jewelry made from the precious metal. Tourists cannot help but notice this, as they wander about the tourist markets such as the Khan el-Khalili, as they will encounter many stores full of golden trinkets. Indeed, while gold tends to maintain a somewhat steady price throughout the world, there are sometimes even bargains to be found for gold jewelry in Egypt. Specifically, the price of working the gold into jewelry by Egyptian artisans

is usually less

Large, heavy golen bracelets sparkle in the El Sagha Jewelry district of Cairo

expensive in Egypt than, for example, the US and many European countries, even though Egyptian jewelers are very good at this. Also, because raw gold has such a fixed price, items made from gold are usually relatively expensive for Egyptians in comparison to other goods that they buy. However, they are compelled to buy gold for special occasions and as gifts for their loved ones, but because of its relative cost, the markup for retail may sometimes be slimmer than in other regions of the world. Hence, knowing where Egyptians buy their gold jewelry can be a real advantage to tourists.

One finds some decidedly pharaonic style jewelry even in non-touristic jewelry shops because sometimes even modern Egyptians like this style, plus there are always the occassional tourists

When tourists come to Egypt, they usually shop where their tour guides lead them. These places include the different shops around the area of the pyramids in Haram and the famous Khan el-Khalili market in the area of Hussein. Though one might find good souvenirs, they are not the best places to buy regular gold jewelry. Recently, we explored two general locations where Egyptians frequently purchase their gold jewelry. One is not far from the Khan el-Khalili market, called El Sagha, which can be translated as "gold shops" in Arabic, while the other is in Heliopolis at a place called Game' Square. We also explored a few shops in Zamalek, where very upscale gold jewelry is sold. One may also note that the way gold is sold in these locations varies.

The El Sagha Gold Jewelry District in Cairo, Egypt

Anyone who has purchased gold in the Khan el-Khalili knows that merchants there typically price their items according to its weight, specifically, the number of grams. Of course, these prices vary according to the color, either gold or white, and the measure of purity (carats). That is the same way that gold is sold at Game' Square, but at El Sagha, the price is made up of a compound amount consisting of the item's weight plus a fee which is added on for its design. The price per gram can vary from store to store by a few Egyptian pounds. Note also that the price of gold can vary over time, so it is important that one understands that the referenced pricing was

Large, ornate gold necklaces  in the El Sagha district in Cairo

obtained on January 7th, 2007. From time to time, we will try to update this information. Also note that on this same date, one Egyptian pound is equal to 0.175 USD and 0.1356 EUR. We visited some of the better stores in the El Sagha district, and while those we explored do not in themselves constitute all the reputable gold outlets there, they make up a good representation of what one will find. Our first stop was at a shop named Hedeya, which displays a grand selection of gold items including earrings and necklaces, though it is perhaps best

Rings and things in the Hedeya Jewelry Shop

known for its bracelets. Hedeya sells mostly Egyptian gold colored either gold or white. A gram of 18 carat gold, on this date, costs 86 Egyptian Pounds (LE), while a gram of 21 carat gold, which is of course more pure, sells for 100 LE. 18 carat white gold sells for 115 LE per gram, while 21 carat white gold sells for 121 LE.

However, as mentioned above, these prices do not include the actual design, or manufacturing of the item; taking the raw gold and making it into jewelry. According to the owner of Hedeya, it is much more difficult to provide any solid rules on

The Hedeya Jewelry Shop in the Sagha Distrct of Cairo

such pricing, but in general, one of the factors that has made gold jewelry in Egypt an attractive item for tourists is that this workmanship, even though finely done, is much less than in most western countries. However, this shop has a good collection of gold bracelets within the price range of 2,000 to 3,000 LE, with very heavy necklaces costing between 3,000 and 5,000 LE.

The next shop we visited was Belal Nagaty, which on this particular date charged precisely one pound less for both 18 and 21 carat yellow gold. This store seems to be best known for its well designed rings, which typically range in price from 1,500 to 2,500 LE.

Fancy gold rings, some with diamonds and other gems, in the El Sagha district of Cairo

Down the street, we found the Tazi shop, which actually has two outlets in El Sagha. Their prices per gram of gold mirror those of the Hedeya shop, but the owner offered a few interesting details. Specifically, he said that it was important to obtain a stamped, detailed receipt from any shop where gold jewelry is purchased, providing information such as the weight, the price of the manufacturing and the details of the time itself. In addition to Egyptian pieces, this shop also sells Italian Lazordi gold jewelry, sometimes

More colorful gold rings in the Sagha district

at rather surprising prices. He added that most tourists like the more simple designs, especially the rings. He showed me a classic ring with the flower shape in 21 carat white gold for 1950 pounds. We also found a good collection of white gold bracelets that range from 2,000 to 3,000 LE. Here, we also found a colorful 18 carat yellow gold bracelet for 1,500 LE, and a 21 carat white gold cross for 1,200 LE. This shop

Some especially large, ornate necklaces in the Sagha District

carries a wide variety of earrings ranging in price from 300 to 1,500 Egyptian pounds, according to the weight and design.

The Hussein Badr Shop in Sagha is famous for its especially large white and yellow gold bracelets. There prices are mostly the same as the other shops, with items ranging between 2,000 and 5,000 LE. Here, a number of more expensive bracelets containing diamonds are also available. Tourists will note that the weight of diamonds is stated in Qirat, from which the western term carat is derived. However, the weight of a one carat diamond should be the same as that of a one Qirat diamond, which is equal to .2 grams. Qirat is actually an Arabic word meaning "bean pod" or "small weight." and is

A selection of earrings found in the el-Sagha district of Cairo

perhaps itself derived from the Greek word, "keration", which means "carob bean". Such beans were used in scales, because of their consistent weight, during ancient times. Here, a one carat diamond may range from 30 to 34 thousand Egyptian pounds. . Other reputable jewelers in the district include Farzan, Bolbol Hedaya, and Hamdy Mursi. Many of these shops carry a large variety of gold and diamonds rings, earrings, bracelets and necklaces. Perhaps most importantly, one should realize when buying from these shops that, while the price per gram of gold is usually fixed, one may usually negotiate the price of the design work, which is

A store front window in Game' Square packed with golden necklaces and other jewelry

often required to obtain the best price. Which raises the obvious question of how much the design work should cost. Perhaps this issue can be answered, at least in some part, by our visit to another famous jewelry district, Game' Square in Heliopolis. Here, there are more than 20 shops which, in general, sell their gold jewelry according to gram weight along. In other words, there is no additional charge for the design work. At the same time, one must keep in mind that this square, near Korba beside Beirut Street, caters more to an upscale market, and their jewelry inventories frequently meet a somewhat higher standard than those in El Sagha.

Gold pendants in Game' Square

Of the variety of gold jewelry shops in this location such as the Sameh Samy Gold Store and the Amira Gold Store, the largest is perhaps Yasin Elish, which was our first stop. Here, one finds a grand selection of all sorts of gold jewelry, much of which is adorned with diamonds. All of the items meet a very high standard of design. Here, Egyptian designed jewelry in 18 carat yellow gold sells for between 100 and 105 Egyptian pounds, depending on the complexity of the design, and 21 carat yellow gold items normally sell for about 115 LE. Interestingly, 21 carat white gold sells for the same price as yellow gold.

Once again, a good slection of bracelets, some in phraonic syyles, from Game' Square

From this information, we might surmise that the manufacturing price added to the gram cost in the El Sagha district should probably be no more than about 15 to 20 LE for 18 carat items, and no more than around 15 LE for 21 carat items. At Yasin Elish, the salesman showed us several wonderful items, including an amazing yellow gold bracelet for 3,000 LE, and a much lighter, though more complex one for 1,000 LE. Some of their gold jewelry is branded and may bring higher prices. We viewed a white gold Bullegery brand ring, which the vendor told us was popular with tourists, that cost about 2,000 LE, and there are Bullegery bracelets that range from 2,500 to

High quality necklaces from Game' Square

3,000 LE. One may also find a good selection of gold bracelets with Islamic design that range from about 2,000 to 3,000 LE, depending on their weight and design. I also asked about the prices of diamonds. The people at Yasin Elish explained that the purist diamonds they sell are ratted as H VVS1, a very high standard coasting about 34 thousand Egyptian pounds for one qirat (carat). A one qirat diamond rated as H VVS2 will sell for about 25 thousand Egyptian pounds. Of course, they inventory jewelry which contains both more and less than one qirat stones.

A general view of Game' Square

This shop also carries a fantastic collection of white and yellow earrings that are sometimes complex, and sometimes simple. They have all sorts of necklaces with and without diamonds, rings, crosses, and and various charms and pendants. It has one of the best variety of gold items in Game square.

We also visited the Ehab Mounir store in Game' Square, which has a similarly large collection of gold items. They provided us with the the same prices for the Egyptian gold but I wanted to know the prices for imported jewelry. They explained that the line of Lazordi gold, often in 24 carat, is sold for 135 LE per gram. There are also other brands of Italian gold that are sold in a range

Ehab Mounir Jewelry shop in Game' Square

from 130 to 140 Egyptian pounds per gram, but he also emphasized that the Swiss gold is some of the purest and most valuable and that those lines sell for about 150 Egyptian pounds per gram. Ehab Mounir is famous for his collection of yellow gold bracelets that range from 2,000 to 4,000 LE. Nearby is a shop called Geneva, which displayed the nicest rings we found in Game' Square. This vendor explained that some of the white gold bands can be as high as 150 LE per gram because of their intricate and unique designs. This shop also had a wide variety of yellow gold bracelets that we felt were much simpler and yet more beautiful than the ones found in the El Sagha district. One shop

Various bracelets and rings in Game' Square

I noticed in Game' Square had a completely different style, it seems, than all the others, catering to buyers seeking very upscale and unique pieces of jewelry. The shop was not unfamiliar to me because I remembered Nancy Ajram, one of the most popular Arabic pop singers, starred in their television commercials. This is the chain that originated in the UAE in 1907 and that grew into an international fashion jewelry network, known as Damas. Though rather expensive, they display a marvelous collection of jewelry. However, much of it is foreign made, which might defeat the purpose of buying gold jewelry in

The Damas Jewelry store in Game' Square

Egypt for tourists. A brand name such as Laurentia sells for 175 LE per gram, while Roberto Cento costs 160 LE per gram. We liked their white gold rings with small diamonds that sell for between 5 and 20 thousand Egyptian pounds. They also carry a wide selection of chains, bracelets and necklaces in vary unique designs. While the El Sagha district and Game' Square are well known among Egyptians for their gold jewelry, good stores are not limited to these areas, as most neighborhoods have at least two or three jewelry shops. Notably, Zamalek, known for its upscale neighborhoods, has several well

A selection of bracelets in the range of 2,000 to 3,000 LE from Game' Square

known shops, particularly along Hassan Sabry Street. Here, a shop called Refaat specializes in yellow gold jewelry, with prices similar to those in the major gold centers. Along with a good selection of necklaces and bracelets, like many neighborhood shops, they also cater to local newlyweds with a good collection of engagement rings. On the other side of the same street is Bon Gout Jewelry, which specializes mainly in gold that contains diamonds. Opened in 1979, it is considered one of the best places to buy gold with diamonds, ranging in price from 22 thousand to 30 thousand Egyptian pounds for one

A gold bracelet and its paperwork form a store in Sagha

Qirat, according to the purity. The shop offers a vast collection of beautiful earrings, rings and bracelets. Of course, there are many other jewelry shops in this great city of Cairo, with well known shops in such upscale neighborhoods of Mohandeseen and Maadi. However, for tourists, a visit to one of the jewelry centers such as El Sagha or Game' Square will probably be easiest. These shops are very reliable, but in the final analysis, one should note that Game' Square has, perhaps, a reputation for more upscale jewelry at a good price, the El-Sagha district is known for some of the best pricing. In any event, Egypt is a great place to pick up some good, bargain gold jewelry while enjoying a tour of a lifetime. We'll do the math

Various fine bracelets in a collection from the Sagha district in Cairo, Egypt

The easiest way to compare bargains in Egypt is to analyze the the prices, which are fairly fixed, for gold jewelry in Game' Square. There, a typical price for 18 carat gold jewelry costs, at the time of this writing, between 100 and 105 LE per gram, while 21 carat gold sells for around 115 LE per gram. Keeping it simple, this translates into 17.50 to 18.38 USD per gram for 18 carat gold jewelry ( 13.59 to 14.27 EUR), or around 20.13 USD (15.63 EUR) for 21 carat yellow gold jewelry. As of the date mentioned above, pure gold is selling on the markets at 613.90

Fine white gold necklaces from Game' Square

USD per troy ounce. One troy ounce is equal to 31.1034807 grams, or 19.7373 USD per gram. Now for example, 18 carat gold is actually 18/24 pure gold, meaning that it is three quarters pure. It is often marked 750, meaning that it is 75% pure gold. Hence, the price for raw 18 carat gold on the market should theoretically sell for 14.80 USD per gram. Of course, in retail jewelry stores, it does not. Keep in mind that this is raw gold with no design factor included, and that 18 carat gold jewelry, for whatever reason, is selling under this amount as of this writing.

In the Tazi Gold Shop in Sagha, many of the dark blue stones are Lapis-Lazuli, used to symbolize a number of concepts in ancient Egypt, including the hair of the gods, while the lighter blue stones are turquoise, another popular stone in ancient Egypt

It can be difficult to make comparisons but, for example, Gold Chains on the internet offers 18 carat gold chains at a price of between 29 and 32 USD per gram. While on-line sources quoting prices in grams are rare, another company in the US sells simple 18K gold beads for 18 USD per gram, and 22K beads for 22 USD. At ShopNBC we found a bar link Bracelet on sale for 999.95 weighing 27.2 grams that was 33% off. That amounts to 36.76 USD per gram. So, without tracking down every source of gold on the net, if one is interested in gold jewelry, Egypt has some real bargains.

last updated: June 8th, 2011