Most authentic gold jewelry is stamped or etched with some sort of indicator. These jewelry inscriptions can be very hard for the lay person to decipher.
In fact, many professionals are not sure what some of them mean because these marks are not as standardized as they should be. However, there are some common ones which make up the vast majority of the gold stamps.
Authentic gold jewelry should have a stamp to indicate the purity of the gold in the piece.
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This mark can be in several different formats. For example: 585, 14kt and 14K all mean 14 karat gold.
All of these formats are easy to understand, except possibly the 3 digit number format.
3 Digit Numbers
These numbers tell how pure the gold is.
They are in the thousandth, so if you want to know the purity percentage, just move the decimal point in one space. For example: 750 is 75.0% pure gold (or 18 karat)
Here’s an easy chart:
|999.9, 999||24 carat; also called “three nines fine”|
|990||23 carat;also called “two nines fine”|
|916, 917||22 carat|
|585, 583, 575||14 carat|
|417||10 carat; minimum standard for U.S.|
|333||8 carat; minimum standard for gold in Germany after 1884|
Beyond just telling you the karat purity of the piece, the jewelry stamp will often have another standard marking to give you more information.
|P||Plumb Gold (guaranteed to be at least the amount of karats on the stamp|
|Sterling Silver||Sterling Silver|
|St Steel||Stainless Steel|
|cw||Carat Weight (usually refers to the karats of the diamond or gems in the piece)|
|CZ||Cubic Zirconia (the gems are cubic zirconia and not diamonds)|
|6,7,8…||Some relatively low number.
This usually indicates the ring size.
A lot of jewelry will have several stamps or marks.
Often there is one stamp to indicate the purity of the gold (“14K”, as mentioned above). The purity mark can be accompanied by a second mark called a maker’s mark or a jeweller’s stamp.
These are custom stamps or engravings placed in jewelry by whomever manufactured it. Sometimes they are letters or initials, and sometimes they are ornate icons (like a heart or a bell, for example). There is a huge number of unique jeweller’s marks.
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Matching these stamps back to the original manufacturer can be extremely difficult. Your best tool to do this is Google.
There are a number of decent websites that have listings of some of the hallmarks. But be prepared, it will probably take some digging!