When you take a look at some of the jewelry that you own, you may notice that there are small letters or numbers engraved on the inside of the band or somewhere near the clasp of the jewelry as well. These letter markings on gold jewelry usually mean something, but most of us do not understand what they mean at all.
The stamps on gold jewelry are there to tell you the type of metal the piece contains. Here are the most popular gold stamps and what they mean:
- 10K, 14L, 18K, 24K: Tells you how much gold there is out of 24 particles versus other metal mixed in. 24K is the highest, pure gold. So 18K means that there are only 18 parts gold and 6 parts of some other metal.
- 417, 585, or 750: Tells you how much gold there is out of 1000 particles versus other metal mixed in. 1000 is the highest, pure gold. So 750 means 750 out of 1000 parts are pure gold.
- 900, 900PT, PT900, 950, 950PT, PT950: These mean the jewelry is Platinum. The number tells you how many parts per 1000 is pure platinum.
- GP: GP means Gold Plated which is a thin layer of gold covering some other metal on the inside.
- GF: GF means Gold Filled which uses a bonding process to put a thin layer of gold to the base of the metal.
- HE: HE means High-grade electroplate which uses an electroplating process to put a thin layer of gold on the outside and some other metal on the inside.
Stamps will tell us, how pure the gold is, whether there is any gold in the ring at all, and if the piece is only made out of gold plating. Knowing these stamp codes can help you make smarter decisions when shopping for jewelry.
Let’s dive in a little bit more and learn what these stamps mean on any piece of jewelry that you purchase:
The Meaning of Hallmark Stamps on Gold Jewelry
The stamp codes on gold jewelry can be a bit tricky, but knowing what they mean and seeing what is in the jewelry before you buy it can help you make a much better decision.
The numbers and letters on gold jewelry, especially when it comes to karat stamping will tell you about the quality of the metal that is in your piece.
10K, 14K, 18K, 24K
If you take a look at a piece of jewelry and notice that this is the only stamp that is on that piece, this is telling you that the piece is made out of solid gold.
What to know if your gold is real? We reviewed the top 5 gold testers here.
The number also represents the karat fineness of the gold. We can look at an example of this with the 14K. This means that inside the piece, 14 out of 24 particles in the metal are pure gold and nothing else.
The others are often some kind of mixture of the other elements, including copper and palladium. The additional elements that you see will determine the specific color of the gold.
But what if your gold piece has a few other numbers and letters on it in addition to the karat stamp?
You may notice purity marks of AU or AG alongside karat stamps on your jewelry as well. This is called a fineness mark and it tells you something about how pure the gold is. It tells you exactly how pure the gold is inside and exactly how the gold is mixed. For example, if you have a piece that is 14K, this does not mean that it contains 14 parts gold and only 1 part of another metal. No, there are actually 24 parts gold in the piece and so AU means that 12 of those parts are pure gold.
As you can see, the karat stamp and fineness mark help you to understand how pure the gold is in the ring. They also tell you exactly what elements are inside of the jewelry so that you know what you are really purchasing.
Bottom Line: All of these numbers will tell you what karat grade your piece is and are used to describe the gold that is in it.
417, 585, or 750
This is another way that we are able to tell the content of gold in the piece. Instead of telling us how many parts out of 24 are pure gold, this is going to tell us out of 1,000.
So, if you have something that is 18K gold, then this means 750 out of 1000 parts are pure gold. The 14K will be 585 parts out of 1,000. The 10K will be 417 parts out of 1,000.
This method has been outdated for a long time, but there are still many people who use it to determine the purity of their gold.
Bottom Line: The higher the number on this one, the more particles are gold inside the piece.
900, 900PT, PT900, 950, 950PT, PT950 (Platinum)
The numbers are the percentage of platinum in the metal.
900, 900PT, and PT900 are going to signify that the metal we see is 900 parts pers 1000 pure platinum. For example, 900PT is 90% Platinum, 10% Palladium. (90/10)
950, 950PT, and PT950 tell us that the metal is 950 parts per 1000 pure platinum. For example, 950 means 95% platinum and 5% rhodium or Iriduim.
The number 900 is frequently used in American jewelry, while the 950 is favored by European brands.
The number 950 will work out cheaper than 900 as it is a lesser amount of platinum, therefore less expensive, but it will also wear down quicker and may need changing more often. The 900 however will not need to be changed as often.
The 950 also has a tendency to tarnish quicker than the 900, but with care can stay beautiful longer.
Bottom Line: The 950 will be cheaper and tarnish faster, while the 900 won’t tarnish but be more expensive. Both are beautiful metals that last a long time.
GP (Gold Plated)
When you see this kind of designation, it is a sign that the piece of jewelry is made with plated gold, but there is some other type of metal that is under the gold plate.
It will usually have some kind of karat fineness so you know the karat weight of the gold plating. So, it may be listed as 18K GP.
This is a good way to get some jewelry at a reduced price that looks like real gold, but keep in mind that the whole item is not made out of gold, just the plating at the top.
Bottom Line: If you want gold, but don’t want to spend a lot of money for it, go with this option.
GF (Gold Filled)
This one is almost the opposite of what we found with GP. It stands for gold-filled.
This will tell you that there is a thin layer of the gold that was bonded inside the base of the metal to help make the piece.
The whole thing may not be gold and you may have a completely different metal on the outside, such as platinum or silver, but the inside has a small amount of silver to work with.
Bottom Line: GF will be a little bit less than the very real solid gold options on this list. This one is priced in the middle and won’t cost you an arm and a leg to get it done.
HE (High-grade electroplate)
Our final marking is HE. This is going to be the abbreviation that is used for high-grade electroplate.
This means that there is some kind of metal on the inside, but it was layered with gold in an electroplating process to provide you with a thin layer of gold plating. For example, the jewelry may be made out of a base metal, like copper or silver.
To create the piece and keep it looking real, an electroplating process will take place where the item goes through several different layers of coating at different times.
This can help to make sure that you have something that looks like gold and acts like gold, but actually costs you a lot less.
Bottom line: The piece is not solid gold and the thickness can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Why Do the letter markings on gold jewelry matter?
The markings will matter because they tell you more about the piece. You can take a look at it to make sure that you are getting the piece of jewelry that you want and not a fake.
If you want a certain karat of ring, then you will want to make sure that marking is found on it. Or if you are looking to get a pure gold ring, you can ensure that one of the other markings will not be on it and you are not tricked to spend more than you want.
Related Questions about Jewelry Stamps
How do I identify my jewelry markings?
If you have a piece of jewelry and you want to know what it is made out of, there are some steps that you can take.
You will need some kind of magnifying glass so you can see the insides of the ring or stone in order to find the stamp. If nothing else, hold your ring up to the light and you might be able to see it with your naked eye.
Sometimes, you may have to take the ring into a jeweler in order for them to look at it through magnification and determine what it is made out of.
What are the karat markings on gold and jewelry?
If you see a piece that has something like 14KG, then this will be telling you that it is made out of 14 parts of 24 karat pure gold. It is weighed as an entire ring or other piece of jewelry. Sometimes, it may just have 18KGP and not be the entire ring.
If you have something like 18KGP, then this will tell you that there is gold plating on a base metal and it may not have as much gold in it as you would think.
What is a Hallmark stamp on jewelry?
A hallmark is a metal stamp that is impressed onto the metal of a ring or piece of jewelry. Usually, it will be stamped near the band or shank of the jewelry and consists of numbers and sometimes some symbols as well.
Hallmarks are used by manufacturers to identify where they were made and their quality. Hallmark stamps provide assurance to the buyer that the piece of jewelry they are buying is authentic. Some hallmarks even provide information about where and when it was made, the karat weight, as well as type of metal used in making the jewelry.
Does gold need to be stamped?
Gold jewelry needs to be stamped. The stamping is required by government regulations in order to ensure that the wearer of a piece of gold jewelry is getting exactly what they paid for. The law states that any piece of gold jewelry that has value greater than $250 must be stamped with a karat stamp.
The stamp will help to identify the type of metal as well as the quality and size of the gold used in making it. The stamping should be located somewhere on either side of the band or shank so that it can be easily read.
Now that you know how to read the hallmark stamps on gold jewelry, you will be able to make a smarter decision when buying anything.
Knowing what type of metal is in the piece and if it is solid gold or not can help you determine if it is worth your money or not. It’s also good to know if there are any alloys that are part of your piece or not.
Knowing the weight and karat designation will let you know if it is a good value for money and can help save you some money when you want to get something nice in the future.