Bali is highly regarded as having some the world’s best gold and silversmiths. The level of workmanship and pure artistry is second to none anywhere in the world. So great is the diversity of the beautiful jewelry to be found here, that to discuss it meaningfully requires breaking it down somewhat into categories.
A) Modern. Modern jewelry is generally defined as any jewelry product which is clearly marked with an alloy standard. For gold, or what we call emas, this is typically 22 karat or .9167 pure, and for silver, .925 or classic sterling silver. Other modern standards of gold can be found, viz, 18 k and 14k, but those pieces are most likely production left over pieces, or were rejected due to one flaw or another by an exporter. Traditional Balinese goldsmiths prefer 22k gold because they normally work it by chasing or carving techniques. The higher the gold content, the more malleable and workable is the metal.
B) Antique. This jewelry is never marked with any alloy standard, nor is it ever marked by the maker. These items are much sought after, and the best pieces are normally associated with the Majapahit Dynasty in Java and Bali as well as the awesomely superb filigree and granulation work of southern Sulawesi, specifically Makassar.
C) Tribal. Tribal cultures often refer to gold as heat, or the heat of gold. For these cultures, gold holds a highly spiritual significance. The alloy purity of both gold and silver varies significantly, from as low as 6 karat to about 16 or so karat. As with antique jewelry, authentic tribal jewelry is never marked. Modern reproductions of tribal jewelry can easily be found, and they will be marked. The source of the precious metal in most Indonesian tribal jewelry was old coinage from Holland and other countries. This helps to account for the great variations in the purity of the alloys most used by the tribal cultures.
For modern jewelry, the very best pieces are always made on a commissioned basis. Most independent gold and silversmiths simply cannot afford to hoard bullion gold or silver while waiting for projects. If you are serious about having some work done here in Bali, especially in 22 k gold, then bring your own bullion gold coins or bars. Bullion coins, like the American gold eagle are best as a specific license is required to import gold and silver bullion into Indonesia. Also, bullion prices throughout Indonesia carry a hefty premium over current world market spot prices.