Gold jewelry quality marks list
Whether you purchase your gold from an online seller, a retail store, or a garage sale, you probably want to verify the quality of your gold jewelry. One of the easiest ways to learn the story behind a piece is to check it for markings. To a casual shopper, however, the markings can seem a little cryptic. Most gold will be marked with mysterious combinations of numbers and letters. Once you know what the most common markings mean, you can shop like an expert.
One of the challenges in identifying jewelry by its marks is that gold hallmarking laws in the United States did not go into effect until 1973. Antique jewelry may not have any markings on it, even if it’s genuine solid gold. If you want to know whether gold you purchase at a garage sale or antique shop is authentic, you may have to take it to a jewelry expert. Additionally sometimes jewelry markings (when a piece has them) are hidden. Be sure to check the inside of the band on rings and the clasps on necklaces.
Assuming you are able to locate the markings on your jewelry, there are a few common types. The most obvious stamp to look for is karat markings, such as “12k” or “18k”. 24 karat gold is essentially pure gold, so a marking of “12k” would indicate that the jewelry is 50 percent gold, and “18k” would mean it’s 75 percent gold. 18 karat gold is generally considered very high quality, although many people have jewelry (even wedding rings) made from 10, 12, or 14 karat gold.
Gold purity is also sometimes marked in hundredths. This will usually be a three-digit number, such as 333 or .333, which would indicate the metal is made of 33.3% gold. Just like with silver, this method of marking gold purity is pretty easy to understand.
Some marks will indicate that a piece of jewelry is gold plated. “HGE” and “Plate” are common ones. You might also see stamps like “RGP,” “EP,” “1/10,” or “Gold-filled.” Solid white gold can be created by mixing pure gold with platinum, palladium, or nickel, the latter of which can cause allergic reactions. When white gold is made with platinum or palladium, it will sometime be marked with “PT” for platinum or “PALL” or “PD” for palladium.
One last type of marking that might be stamped on your gold is a hallmark. A hallmark is like a logo or a brand for a jewelry company, and it acts as proof that the jewelry is high quality and was produced by the advertised company. Hallmarks are very expensive to register, so smaller companies might not have one. Regardless, new jewelry in the United States must be stamped with the gold purity, so you won’t have to wonder about that. Jewelry created since 1973 should have the purity expressed in either karats or hundredths. Jewelry created before 1973 was often 9 karat gold, or about 37.5 percent gold, so if you can’t find a marking or consult a jeweler on an antique piece, you can generally assume that it’s 9 karats.