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Gold Jewelry Markings

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Gold identifying markings on vintage jewelry..... You want to buy what looks like a high quality vintage or antique gold jewelry piece, but it doesn't have a gold stamp. So you think it can't be genuine gold. What many people are not aware of is that many, many older jewelry pieces don't have a gold stamp mark. Much gold jewelry from both the 19th and 20th century are unmarked. Sometimes pieces from out of the country may not have markings.  It was only a couple of decades ago that the US government set standards for new jewelry retailers to mark. It was not until October, 1981 that an FTC amendment went into effect tightening quality mark standards.  Prior to that time, the industry has much looser standards. This ammendment only effected US trade. Other countries are different and there are no worldwide standards.  Each country is has their own standards. 

For pieces that are unmarked, gold purity can be easily tested by devices that measure electrical conduction, or chemically testing the reaction with dilute acids, which will determine Karat weight.  Since many jewelry items still exist today that are unmarked, you must be careful what you buy not based on the fact the there is not a goldmarking.  Unmarked jewelry can be easily affixed with 18k, 14k, or 12k gold tagging from an unscruptulous seller.  Tags can be purchased and placed on anything that looks gold and most buyers assume since it is tagged, it must be real.  Be careful to buy from only trusted sellers and to only use paypal when paying for fine jewelry.

Karat or Carat weight measures for gold purity or fineness:

  • 24 karat (24K) - highest qualilty of gold, which is considered pure gold or solid gold, and must be at least . Pure gold is much softer than gold mixed with other metals and difficult to use for some jewelry pieces. Most jewelry gold is mixed with an alloy to provide strength. 

  • 18 karat (18K) - contains 18 parts gold and 6 parts other metals, which makes it 75% gold and 25% other metals*.

  • 14 karat (14K) - contains 14 parts gold and 10 parts other metals which makes it 58.2% gold  and 41.8% other metals*.

    10 karat (10K) gold contains 10 parts gold and 14 parts other metals, whic makes it 41.7% gold and 58.3 other metals*.10k gold is the minimum karat weight allowed to be designated gold in the United States.   

European Markings for Gold

  • 18K gold is marked 750 to indicate 75% gold

  • 14K gold is marked 585 for 58.5%

  • 12K gold is marked 417 for 41.7%

  • *Other metals include brass, copper, silver, silicone, nickel, boron, zinc, etc.....can be a single metal or a combination of several.

    Gold filled or rolled gold (European term) is the term for jewelry with gold applied to its surface or . The gold is bonded with heat and pressure.  Newer jewelry pieces typically have marks indicating the gold content used. For example, a marking of 1/20 12k (karat) G.F.(gold filled) indicates that it has at least 1/20th 12k gold by weight. Gold filled is the term for fine gold jewelry that can be worn a lifetime without fading. It will not oxidize or tarnish as with other metals.

    Gold plated is the term for metal jewelry, having an extremely thin layer of gold applied to it's surface. The thin layer of gold plating typically wears away quicker than gold filled jewelry. Gold plating is used in costume jewelry.

    Gold electroplate or gold flash means a gold plating of 10k or more gold at least 0.000007 inches thick.  Heavy gold electroplate" (H.G.E.P.) is at least 0.0001 inches thick. Gold electroplate is also used for costume jewelry, but more durable than regular gold plating, due to the treatement method. The process is covering the base metal with a thin layer of gold by setting it in a chemical solution and an electric current flows to adher it.

    Gold Vermeil is the term for heavy gold electroplating over a base sterling silver material.  The minimum thickness of 100 millionths of an inch of gold must be electroplated over the silver to be marked or sold as Vermeil.

    I hope this guide will help you in your knowledge of gold.  I will add to it as time permits and will post other future guides for jewelry.

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