Understanding Markings on Jewelry

Understanding Markings on Jewelry
Understanding Markings on Jewelry

Understanding the hallmarks/markings on your jewelry can help you identify if your ring is gold or gold-plated, or even learn more about the history of a lovely antique locket you found during your treasure hunt. You can discover more about practically every item of jewelry in your collection by using a magnifying lens and a little research. Almost every piece of jewelry, from costume pieces to those fine designer pieces, has markings on it. These markings indicate the value of your pieces, and you don’t necessarily have to be an expert to understand them. All you have to do is to know a few simple terms. Read on…

First: Is There A Difference Between Carats and Karats? 

Yes, there is a difference. To define these two often-used terms: A carat is a unit of weight used to describe diamonds or gemstones. A carat is the same as 200 milligrams (0.00705479 ounces).

A karat, on the other hand, is a unit of measurement for the purity of gold. Gold jewelry is typically composed of an alloy metal or a mix of pure gold and a bonding metal. While 24 karat or 24K gold is pure gold, 18 karat gold is made up of 18 parts gold and 6 parts alloy metal—or, in other words, 75% pure gold. Karats are of utmost importance in understanding jewelry value when examining jewelry for authenticity and determining the specifications of the piece. On most high-quality pieces, the qualities of your jewelry (such as gold karat) will appear as a hallmark or a stamp (or many) on the back or bottom of the piece. Markings are used to indicate the purity or fineness of precious metals.

Gold Jewelry Markings

Pure gold is 24 karats and is stamped with the number 999 to indicate the highest gold-to-alloy ratio. As we move down in the gold purity scale, 20-carat gold is stamped with the number 833, which represents the 20:24 (or .833 out of 1000) gold to alloy ratio. Learn how you can tell if gold is real here. And to help you comprehend the other often used gold hallmarks, here’s a handy chart that shows the caratage hallmarks and the gold purity they correspond to:

Gold MarkingsGold Carat, Purity
99924K (100% Pure Gold)
95823K (95.8% Pure Gold)
91722K (91.67% Pure Gold)
75018K (75% Pure Gold)
58514K (58.3% Pure Gold)
3759K (37.5% Pure Gold)

Platinum Jewelry Markings

Although a lesser popular jewelry alternative when compared to gold, platinum is equally valuable, not to say more. It is mined in just a few places on the earth, mainly in South Africa.  If you want a better understanding of platinum’s scarcity, consider that its production in 2009 was just 7% of that of gold.   

Scarcity and uniqueness come at a cost, so expect to spend up to 3% more than for the identical setting in gold. In addition, platinum is a hypoallergenic metal, it ages beautifully, and also creates a very desirable patina with the passing of time. So how to tell platinum from other metals? What hallmarks are engraved in platinum? Check them below: 

MarkingsMeanings
Platinum or PT950At least 95% Pure Platinum
PLAT or PtPlatinum
Pt 999 or PLAT999The Purest Platinum
Pt950/CO95% Platinum With 5% Alloy Cobalt

Silver Jewelry Markings

The purity of silver is expressed as parts of pure silver out of 1000. The “sterling standard” is 925/1000.

As a result, for a piece of jewelry to be called silver, no more than 75 parts of 1,000 can be alloy metal (copper). Copper, like gold, hardens precious metal and makes it more durable for everyday usage. When it comes to sterling silver markings, older pieces are often labeled “sterling” or “sterling silver,” whereas current ones are marked “925” or “925 sterling.”

Silver plated (over base metal) items may not be legally referred to as “sterling” or have a “silver” hallmark. To be designated as “silver” in the United States, jewelry must contain 925 parts silver out of 1000, or 92.5 percent silver.

Markings Meanings
Sterling, Ster, Sterling Silver92.5% Purity Silver
Silver 92592.5% Purity Silver
STRSilver
925Sterling Silver with 92.5% Purity
999 Silver, Silver99999% Pure Silver

Other Markings On Jewelry

Markings Meanings
Plat/ PT / platinumPlatinum
900Plat / 900Pt / 850Plat/ 850Pt Accordingly: Platinum 90% and Platinum 85%
10% irid-platinumPlatinum with 10% Iridium Alloy
S.S / Steel / St. Steel Stainless Steel
Silver / S.Silver Sterling Silver
Titanium Titanium
Pd / pall /  950 Pd / 950 PallPalladium
KPKarat Plump
TungstenTungsten
CZCubic Zirconia
GF / 14K GFGold Filled and 14K Gold Filled
GP / 18K GPGold Plated or 18K Gold Plated
GEP or G.E.P.Gold Electroplate
VermeilThe item is gold plated sterling silver
Nickel Silver / German Silver / Alpaca Silver / Argentan Silver / Nickel BrassThe item does not contain silver
  • Vermeil

Vermeil, commonly known as “silver-gilt,” is high-quality silver (pure or sterling) that has been plated with a thin coating of gold. The majority of vermeil jewelry on the market today is made by electroplating silver with gold, a chemical technique that employs an electrical current to bond the two metals together.

  • Nickel Silver Jewelry

Nickel Silver contains no silver. It is usually made of 60% copper, 20% zinc, and 20% nickel. Although called silver, nickel silver contains no silver in its composition. “Silver” in Nickel Silver jewelry, refers to the color of the metal and not the content. 

  • Gold Filled 

Gold filled jewelry has a significantly thick covering of gold over the base metal, like brass for example. This makes a significant impact on the jewelry’s capacity to withstand wear and tear over time. Although the base metal is typically brass or similar low-cost material, distinguishing between “genuine” gold and a gold filled piece would be difficult.

  • Gold Plated 

Gold plated jewelry is constructed of brass, copper, or a low-value metal electroplated with gold covering. Because there is no minimum carat weight or thickness restriction, gold-plated jewelry is often less expensive than vermeil. A gold plated object, on the other hand, is more valuable than a vermeil piece if it has a high gold carat weight (20 or 22k) and a thick covering of gold.

  • Palladium 

Palladium is a rare metal that appears whiter than platinum and white gold. It is a wonderful option for wedding and engagement rings because of this, as well as its high durability. It was used to alloy platinum for the first time in jewelry in 1939 and can only be found in a few mines worldwide.

Precious Metals Vs Base Metals

Precious metals are those metals that are used to make exquisite jewelry. Gold, platinum, and silver are the three most common precious metals used in jewelry. Non-precious metals or metals used for reasons other than jewelry are referred to as base metals. Copper, zinc, tin, nickel, lead, and iron is among these metals.

These metals are used as alloy materials with precious metals on occasion, and they are commonly utilized in the creation of costume jewelry, often with a thin coating (or “plate”) of precious metal on top. When a piece of jewelry is made of precious metal, it will often contain a stamp or quality indication indicating the metal’s kind and purity.

The remainder of this essay will go through the numerous marks that you are likely to see on gold, silver, and platinum.

Where To Find Karat Stamps In Jewelry?

Now that you have a better understanding of what stamps on gold mean, you can start looking at your pieces by yourself to determine their value. Examining your gold for stamps/ markings can sometimes become a real challenge, especially if you’re a complete novice. This is because different pieces of jewelry will have the marking/ stamp, engraved in a specific place. 

Metal content stamps are typically found around the clasp on necklaces and bracelets and on the backs of earrings, pins, and brooches. Rings, for example, have markings on the inner side. On chains, expect to find the marking on the clasp or right next to it.

It is by law specified that every jeweler selling a gold piece must engrave the stamp that indicates the jewelry’s purity. If you don’t find the stamp, that is not a good sign. However, it is possible for the markings in jewelry to wear off with the passing of time. Another reasoning is that the jewelry piece might be vintage or antique, which often come without markings. Don’t worry if you can’t find a stamp; you can always ask an expert! Gold buyers have extensive knowledge of determining value and may also do complex tests to evaluate gold purity. 

Why Are Jewelry Markings Important?

Many jewelry markings reflect the piece’s metal composition. This is significant because, to the untrained eye, silver-plated and sterling silver items appear practically identical. Understanding the metal composition of your item might assist you in ensuring that you are receiving the quality for which you are paying.