Gold Hallmarks

         

Identifying Gold Markings (hallmarks)

14k-hallmarkThe history of gold hallmarking dates back to 1300 when a Statute of Edward I instituted the assaying (testing) and marking of precious metals. The original aim of the system (which remains the same today) was to protect the public against fraud. Markings on gold are typically made up of two pieces of information. The first, which most people are familiar with is the “hallmark” or “karat marking” (sometimes referred to as a “stamp”) which denotes the amount of actual gold the item contains. The most common markings used in the U.S. to identify the purity of gold items are karat hallmarks (i.e. 10k, 14k, 18k, etc.). Many other countries hallmark gold using the three-digit millesimal fineness number (as discussed above) to indicate the purity of a gold item.

The second type of mark which is sometimes found on gold items (but not always) is the jewelers or manufacturers mark (which identifies who made the item). The jeweler’s or manufacturer’s mark is sometimes just a single letter, or sometimes a combination of multiple letters. These marks may even be some type of symbol (such as a lions head) which is more commonly found on older gold items. You can find pictures and reference materials for identifying many of these types of gold marks by doing a simple Google image search for “Gold Hallmarks“.

Many hallmarks on gold are very small and hard to read; and with the use of laser etching techniques many items are hallmarked with very tiny print and sometimes in very unique (and hard to find) locations. This is why it is important to use a jeweler’s loupe or other type of magnifying devise of at least 20x magnification or better when you are looking for gold hallmarks which will make it much easier to find and identify correctly!

Table of the most common hallmarks that you are likely to find on your gold items:

North American Marking

European Millesimal Fineness Marking

British Marking

9k or 9kt

375

9ct or 9kt

10k or 10kt

416 or 417

10ct or 10kt

14k or 14kt

583 or 585

14ct or 14kt

18k or 18kt

750

18ct or 18kt

22k or 22kt

916 or 917

22ct or 22kt

24k or 24kt

999

24ct or 24kt

Other Gold Purity Markings (KP, GF, EP)

Beyond just simple purity hallmarks discussed above, there are some other types of markings that jewelers use when hallmarking gold jewelry as well. Below is an explanation of a few of the most common that you may come across which would have an effect on the market value of your gold.

KP Gold

KP stands for “karat plumb” that’s “plumb” as in “straight” or “exact”, so 14kp gold is exactly 58.555% gold. This marking relates to some odd, and now obsolete US laws. 14 karat means that an item is 14/24 gold with the remainder being other metals. The problem comes with the rounding. 13.88/24 would be rounded to 14k under the old US law and 13k under matching British law. Obviously, this could cause some confusion, especially for U.S. manufacturers who want to sell in Europe. European customers simply didn’t believe the marks. They started using 14kp to mean that it is at least 14.00/24 parts gold. The rules have actually changed to where US manufacturers are using the same rules as the rest of the world but the 14kp system of naming still lives on. For new pieces, 14k and 14kp both mean that it’s at least 14.00/24 parts gold. In older pieces 14k might contain as little as 13.51/24.

“KP” is often mistakenly believed by people to mean “karat PLATE.” If the gold item is only “plated” it will typically be marked with the purity of the gold alloy that it is plated with followed by the letters GP (gold plate), GF (gold filled), or EP (electroplated). Example: 14k GP or 1/20 14k GF.

GF Gold

See our page What is Gold Filled to learn all about gold items with a “GF” hallmark.

EP Gold

EP stands for “electroplating” and is used to make items out of non-precious metals which are then coated in a very thin layer of pure gold by the process of electroplating. Federal standards require items that are stamped “EP” to have a thickness of at least 7 millionths of an inch of at least 10K gold (gold electroplated items will have a much smaller amount of actual gold content as compared to “gold filled”).

Gold Hallmarks, in Closing:

While the laws regulating gold hallmarking tend to vary through the world, gold hallmarking is still regulated in one way or another by law in most countries. Gold hallmarking in the United States is governed by the laws of U.S. Code, Title 15, Chapter 8 — Falsely Stamped Gold or Silver or Goods Manufactured Therefrom. While this helps to curb fraud and other illegal activity when it comes to hallmarks found on gold items, it does not guarantee that the hallmarks found on items are always 100% accurate! Gold items are made all over the world, many in places where the “laws” are either very lax (to say the least) or in some cases may not exist at all! Therefore, while the hallmark on a gold item can be, and for the most part is universally accepted as an indication of the amount of gold the item contains; again, it may not ALWAYS be 100% accurate! It is for this reason that it is a VERY good idea to confirm any hallmarks found on your gold items by having them tested!