Gold hallmarks or markings can be made up of two pieces of information. The first which most people are familiar with is the 'hallmark' or 'karat marking', the second piece can be the jewelers or manufacturers stamp.
Most gold jewelry will have a 'hallmark' which can be in the form of a number/letter combination (most common in North America) or a number on it's on (more common in Europe and South America).
The jeweler's or manufacturer's mark may or may not be on a piece of gold jewelry. This mark can be a single or multiple letters. On older items these marks may be a symbol such as a lions head etc.
These little symbols are sometimes difficult to puzzle out, but they can tell a whole lot about a piece of jewelry's history if their mystery is unlocked.
What gold hallmarks mean and what they can say about a ring, bracelet or necklace is a lot more than many gold lovers might realize. The laws regulating gold hallmarks do tend to vary from country to country, but in some locations they can even help a buyer figure out exactly where a ring was crafted and even by whom.
|North American Marking||European Numerical Marking||British Marking|
|9k or 9kt||375||9ct or 9kt|
|10k or 10kt||416 or 417||10ct or 10kt|
|14k or 14 kt||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|
Gold Marking Facts
Hallmarks can become fainter as time goes on with heavy wearage/usage. Acid released through the pores of the skin can deteriorate or dissolve the markings over time.
The use of a jewelers loupe makes the viewing of gold hallmarks much easier
Jewelers, artisans and manufacturers marks can help buyers figure out where a piece was initially crafted.
Many symbols correspond to the country they originate from i.e. The letter 'W' inside a crown belongs to Austria, the letter 'P' inside a box belongs to Czechoslovakia.
England tends to use regional symbols, i.e. a lion's head would relate to London.
Gold Hallmarks In The United States And Canada
In the United States, for example, gold hallmarks are not always required on finished works of jewelry. They are, however, deemed necessary when a jeweler or manufacturer wants to put a purity stamp on a piece. A karat stamp is the 10k, 14k, 18k or even 24k mark on some pieces of jewelry. If a ring, for example, has a 10k mark on it, United States law requires that piece also bear a gold trademark.
In the U.S., gold trademarks are typically attached to company or crafter trademarked names. This means buyers can actually trace the origins of their rings or bracelets directly to their makers through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. In some cases, these gold trademarks, depending on the company in question and the mark itself, can help date a piece based on its estimated production time.
In America, gold hallmarks also can serve as a tell tale sign whether a piece of jewelry should be purchased or not. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission, for example, recommends that buyers steer clear of piece of gold that have karat marks, but no identifiable trademarks included. This is a good rule of thumb for newer purchases, but not necessarily on antique pieces. Not all early crafters added their artisan signatures to their creations.
Hallmarks In Other Countries
In other countries their meanings do tend to vary a bit. Some marks can help buyers figure out where a piece was initially crafted. The symbols for some countries are rather distinct.
England, for example, tend to carry regional symbols. London, for example, is lion's head. The mark for Czechoslovakia is an outline of the letter "P" in a box. The Austrian symbol is a "W" inside a crown that also looks like a rounded "W."
While gold hallmarks are not found on every piece of jewelry made now or in the past, they can help unlock some mysteries when they are found. These symbols often can help narrow down who made a particular piece and even during what time period. Looking for them, particularly on new buys, is smart to ensure the quality sold is what is genuinely received.
For gold, karat grade is used to express the proportion of gold in an alloy or the quality
of a gold alloy. Fine gold (pure) is 24 karat. The proportions in other karat are listed
in the table below.
All jewelry is required by law to be stamped so consumers will know the quality of gold used. Jewelry made in North America is typically marked with the karat grade (10K, 14K, etc.), and jewelry made in Italy is typically marked with the "fineness" such as (417, 583, etc.). So if your jewelry does not have a karat grade stamped on it, check for a 3-digit fineness number.