Thursday, January 19, 2017

Common Markings Found on Real (Solid) Gold Jewelry

When first starting out buying and selling (or just finding) scrap gold jewelry, all the different jewelry markings and terms can seem somewhat daunting.

But the terms and jewelry marks don't have to be overwhelming, at least not most of it...  Here's a few tidbits about gold jewelry markings that should help you get well on your way to identifying real (solid) gold jewelry while leaving the fake (or plated) stuff behind.

First, when I say "real gold jewelry", what I really mean is "solid" gold jewelry... that is to say, jewelry with enough gold content that can be measured, valued, and economically recovered.  For the most part, this means items that are at least 10k solid gold.  Please take a look at my previous articles if this paragraph has you confused.

OK, now that we've defined WHAT we're looking for, let's look at HOW to identify it.  Keep in mind this is a simple guide covering the common basic markings, more in-depth knowledge and information (and thus, the real "secrets") will be revealed as time goes on.

The most common gold jewelry markings that I've come across fall into two basic formats:

Karat Purity Markings
A "karat purity marking" is by far the most common gold marking found on jewelry in the U.S., and quite common worldwide.  The format is simple and fairly easy to recognize, although manufacturers of plated and cheaper jewelry like to produce similar marks on their inferior products, lending some confusion to the mix.

In a nutshell, the common karat purity markings you'll find on solid gold jewelry follow this format:

Two Numbers - Followed by the letter "K", "KT", or "KP".

If you can remember that format, you'll be way ahead of most of your competition in being able to quickly identify real, solid gold jewelry.  Of course, the topic of gold jewelry markings is way more complicated than this, but for now, let's minimize distractions and focus on the jewelry that will make you money.

Some examples:
14 KP

K = Karat
KT = Karat
KP = Karat Plumb

Spacing between the numbers and letter "k" is somewhat arbitrary, though it should never be a very large gap.

It's OK to see letters or symbols after the "K", "KT", or "KP" - BUT, you don't want to see more letters IN CONJUNCTION WITH these letters.

Example, the marking "14K  EGN" is a "good" marking, one that you want to see because it most likely means the jewelry is REAL gold.  On the other hand, the markings "14KGE" or "14KGP" are "bad" markings, and signify the jewelry only has a gold plating.  (In the first marking, "EGN" with a space after the "K"... whatever letters appear after the space are usually a maker's mark or maker's initials.  However, when their is NO SPACE, the subsequent letters usually reflect characteristics of the metal purity... "KGE" = Gold Electroplated, "KGP" = Gold Plated.

Confused yet?  Don't be.  Just remember our formatting rule...

Two Numbers - Followed by the letter "K", "KT", or "KP".

That's all you need to remember right now, all the other garbage is distracting.

3-Digit Gold Purity Number
The second format for gold jewelry markings is much less common in the United States, mostly because jewelry that abides by this format originates in other countries across the world.  But it is definitely a common gold jewelry marking and one that you will run across (everyone LOVES finding pieces marked "750"... oh man!!!)

The second format has one simple rule:

Three Numbers

That's it!  Easy, huh?  Kind of... silver and platinum can also have similar markings so once again, it's not always a walk in the park (although walking in a park full of silver, platinum, and gold isn't necessarily a bad thing).

Basically, this jewelry marking format tells you the gold purity, in a parts-per-thousand label.  The three numbers answer the question "Out of 1,000 total "parts", how many are pure gold"?


417 = (10 Karat gold, or 41.7% gold, or 417 parts out of 1000 are gold)

585 = (14 Karat gold. 14k is actually 58.3% pure gold, but 585 is the marking I commonly see)

750 = (18 Karat gold, or 75% pure gold, or 750 parts out of 1000 are gold)

So that, in a nutshell, covers the common gold jewelry markings.  In future articles we'll go into some of these markings in-depth, along with making sense out of the gold-plated markings, makers marks, deceptive/misleading markings, and more.

Until then, happy hunting!