What's In Your Jewelry Box ? Take the Mystery Out of Your Gold Jewelry!
Updated: Sep 30, 2021
Do you have any gold jewelry stashed in your closet? How much do you actually know about it? Grab that gold bracelet from the jewelry box and let’s see what kind of gold you actually have!
Fortunately, all gold jewelry is required by law to be stamped so that consumers have knowledge of the actual gold content-- this makes assessing your item a lot easier. You will often find the stamp on the backs of pins/brooches and pendants, or the inside of bracelets. Can’t find the stamp? Sometimes the marks are tricky to spot or very, very tiny. A magnifier can be useful; check the posts of earrings or tiny tops of pendants for marks.
If your piece was purchased in the US, it is likely marked for karat fineness – 10K, 14K, 18K or 24K. If so, you have a piece of solid gold!
Solid gold is not necessarily pure gold, most gold is alloyed with other metals – usually copper, nickel, zinc or silver. The other metals give the jewelry strength and scratch resistance, as 24K gold is often too soft for jewelry use. Additionally, some metals may be added to change the color of the gold; an example would be rose gold in which copper is added to create that signature rosy hue. The varying numbers indicate how many particles in the item are actually gold. For instance, 14K indicates that 14 out of 24 particles are gold, while 10 particles are a different metal. If your jewelry is marked 24K, then 24 out of 24 particles are gold. The item is pure gold.
Maybe the jewelry isn’t marked with a “K” though… European gold jewelry is often stamped with a 3-digit number—417, 585, or 750--to specify the purity of the gold. In this case the number refers to how many parts out of 1000 are gold. For instance, a 14K item would be marked “585,” indicating that 585 particles out of 1000 are gold.
Three-digit numbers can also inform us that an item is not gold. A common jewelry mark is 925, indicating that the piece is sterling silver. Numbers in the 900s advise us that the item is made of platinum.
If your piece is marked with letters instead of numbers, there’s a good chance that it’s plated or gold-filled. It’s not solid gold, but it still contains gold!
Your item may be stamped “GF,” indicating that it is gold-filled. This means that while the outside of the jewelry is gold, the gold layer is bonded to another metal, usually copper or sterling silver. Gold filled jewelry is more desirable than plated jewelry, mainly because the gold content is higher. If your gold-filled item is marked “1/20th 14k gold filled” it means that, by weight, 1/20th of the item is 14K gold. “RGP,” or “rolled-gold-plate,” is manufactured in a similar process as gold-filled jewelry, but the gold content is lower.
Vintage gold-filled jewelry may also be stamped with a time designation such as “20 years.” This was a guarantee to the buyer that the gold layer would remain for at least 20 years.
GP or HE indicate that the jewelry has been plated with gold. Markings will often list the karat, for example “GP 14K.” While the karat fineness does reveal the amount of gold in the plating, the actual layer is very thin and has little value as far as gold content is concerned.
24K = 999 = 99.9% pure gold
18K = 750 = 75% pure gold
14K = 585 = 58% pure gold
10K = 416 = 41% pure gold
GF= gold filled
GP, HE = gold plate
925 = sterling silver
900, 950 = platinum
Obviously, jewelry pieces with higher gold content are usually worth more than those with lower content. Even so, there are other considerations that affect the worth such as the maker, whether the piece is signed, rarity and item condition.
Regardless of gold content and worth, the most important thing is that you love the piece and that you feel great when you wear it. If you have gold jewelry that you no longer adore and are ready to let go of, we’re here to assist you in getting the best price possible for your gold. We'll be happy to provide a free assessment regarding the market value of your jewelry.