Jewelry Stamps: What Do They Really Mean?
Written by Quick Jewelry Repairs
April 20, 2016
Many of us have seen the small numbers or letters engraved inside a ring band or near the clasp of a piece of jewelry that we own. But how many of us understand what information those stamps are actually giving us?
In this post, we’ll walk through the different stamps, what they mean, and what you need to know about stamping laws to ensure you’re getting the most accurate information about your jewelry. Let’s start with the basics:
- 10K, 14K, 18K, 24K, etc – if this is the ONLY stamp on the piece, it is telling you first and foremost that the piece is solid gold and secondly, the karat fineness of the gold. For example, let’s look at 14K. 14 out of 24 particles in the metal are pure gold. The others can be a mix of elements including palladium, copper, etc. These additional elements are what determine the specific color of the gold (we’ll talk about this in an upcoming post).
- 417, 585, or 750 – this is just another way of telling us the gold content. However, instead of referring to how many parts out of 24 are pure gold, this number is now out of 1,000. So for 10K gold jewelry, 417 out of 1,000 parts are pure gold. For 14K gold jewelry, 585 parts out of 1,000 are pure gold. So when you see 750 that means 18K gold jewelry because the metal is made of 750 parts per 1,000 of pure gold.
- 900, 900PT, PT900, 950, 950PT, PT950 – all of these stamps designate that the piece is made of one of the two most common platinum alloys. 900, 900PT, or PT 900 all signify that the metal used is 900 parts per 1,000 pure platinum, while 950, 950PT, and PT950 denote 950 parts per 1,000 are pure platinum.
- 925 – a piece with this stamp is made of sterling silver. Legally, to be considered sterling silver a piece has to consist of 92.5% pure silver, with only 7.5% other elements mixed in.
- GP – pieces with this stamp have been plated with gold, but have another metal underneath. It almost always has the karat fineness of the plating listed, i.e. 18K GP.
- HGE – this is the abbreviation for high grade electroplate, which is another way of denoting that the jewelry you are looking at is not solid gold. These pieces also generally display the karat fineness of the gold.
- GF – this stands for gold-filled, which is a term that means a thin layer of gold was bonded to a base metal to make this piece.
So now that we have the basic stamp meanings down, let’s go through some of the most frequently asked questions that we hear from customers:
There’s another symbol next to the metal content stamp that isn’t on your list. What does that mean?
Most likely, the stamp you are seeing here is the manufacturer’s trademark or the trademark of the retailer selling the piece. This is legally required if the item is stamped and serves as a guarantee of sorts that the manufacturer/retailer vouches for the accuracy of the stamp on the metal.
My jewelry piece isn’t stamped at all. Does this mean it’s not made of precious metal?
Not necessarily. The legal guidelines on stamping don’t require all pieces made of precious metal to be stamped. However, they do require the manufacturer or retailer to disclose any precious metal content. This could be via discussion in the store upon purchase, on a tag attached to the piece, or on the receipt for the product itself.
The clasp/closure/earring backs on my piece are stamped, but the rest of the item is not. Does that mean the whole thing is made of precious metal?
Again, not necessarily. Sometimes the clasp of a piece is made of a different metal than the chain, so definitely confirm with the store clerk or jeweler that the entire item is made of the metal from the stamping. Likewise, earring backs may have been accidentally swapped and may not be made of the same metal as the rest of the earrings, especially the posts, so double checking is always best.
My piece has a name/date engraved on it. Is this the designer or year that the piece was made?
For well-known brands and designers, this can be the case, but it isn’t necessarily a correct assumption. For example, Tiffany & Co. has several Paloma Picasso designs that would be engraved as such and may include the date. However, it could also be that the piece is vintage or estate and was engraved with the previous owner’s name, anniversary, etc.
What other questions do you have about jewelry stamp meanings?