Taking extra precautions while purchasing gold is always beneficial. The money required to buy this precious metal is increasing day by day. Therefore, researching before you spend a big check on gold will ensure that you are not being conned.
A widespread concern that is on a buyer’s mind is regarding the gold markings on the jewelry they purchase. These markings are more than numbers.
The letters and numbers are there to tell you just how pure a specific gold item is. Articles like this will aid you in understanding gold markings. Only then you will feel assured to make a safe choice. There is a variety of gold markings that you see on jewelry items. Each marking has a different meaning and understanding.
Gold Markings (Hallmarks)
Hallmarks were invented in order to show the purity of gold in a jewelry made out of this metal. Later, trademarks were added to indicate which goldsmith manufactured that piece.
Imprinting gold was one of the earliest forms of European consumer protection. This technique dates back to King Louis IX of France as well as King Edward I of England in the 1200s. However, today, gold marking is a voluntary procedure, most goldsmiths prefer using this method.
Some gold stamps are easy to comprehend. If your ring is marked with 14K, 18K, and so on, you can tell that it is 14 karat and 18-karat … gold. However, most gold items have intricate markings on them.
GP stands for gold plated. If you see this stamp on your gold ring, it’s not made from pure gold entirely.
This type of jewelry has a base metal that is usually copper or silver. Using various techniques, a thin layer of gold is applied on surface of the base metal. While some gold-plated jewelry might have a thicker layer of gold, it can still easily be scratched off.
Usually, this method is applied for aesthetic purposes only. Gold plated jewelry is also very cheap as compared to pure gold jewelry.
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GEP stands for gold electroplated. If your ring, necklace, or any item has this marking, it refers to a common method called electroplating. Electroplating is a chemical procedure. It is used to coat one metal object with a thin layer of another metal.
Typically, a direct electric current is applied to create a chemical bond between the two types of metals. Usually, the gold coating on GEP jewelry is approximately 0.0002 inches, or 5 micrometers, in thickness. The plating will not naturally come off or separate. However, over a matter of months or years, it can be worn off.
RGP is an abbreviation for ‘Rolled Gold Plate’. Often, this type of jewelry is labeled with other markings. These alternative markings are 1/30 10K RGP, 10K RGP, and so on. More commonly, this marking is used for watches.
RGP indicates that a very thin layer of bond has been placed on another type of metal. However, compared to an electroplated jewelry piece, this type of jewelry consists of more amount of gold. Still, RGP means that the item you are about to purchase is not solid gold.
In the market, you will come across a lot of rings, necklaces, and other jewelry marked with HGE. This also means that the item you are purchasing is a mix of metals.
HGE is a short term for ‘heavy gold electroplate’, or “hard gold electroplate” as some may suggest. Any jewelry item that has a quality mark of HGE has gone through the electroplating procedure.
Heavy gold electroplating is also accomplished with the use of the electrolytic process. But, the difference between GEP jewelry and HGE jewelry is simple. Approximately 100 millionth of one inch of fine gold is used. Any watch or jewelry item that has a thickness of about 0.0015 inch or above is classified as HGE by jewelers.
Similar to GP, HGP stands for a heavy gold plate. Most costume jewelry is made to appear 100% gold. A base of bronze, brass, or steel is usually what sits under the layer of gold.
However, when an item is marked as HGP, it means that it is only 5% gold or more. HGP jewelry goes through the same procedure of electroplating. What makes it different is the amount of gold used to layer another metal.
6. The number 375
If your ring is stamped with 375, you might be wondering what it means. Any gold item marked with 375 suggests that it is 9-karat gold.
To say this in another way, 375 indicates that a jewelry item is 9/24 pure gold. Keeping this ratio in mind, this means that the rest of the jewelry piece is not pure gold.
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Usually, pure gold that is not mixed with another metal is marked at 24-karats. The number 375 also indicates that an item is 37.5% pure gold only.
7. The number 585
A 585 mark on a gold item denotes how much gold was used to make it. In the United States, simple markings such as 18K, 24K, and so on are used.
In some foreign countries, the gold markings look complicated, but the meaning is simple.
If you notice 585 marked on your gold item, it means that it is equivalent to 14-karat gold. In other words, this particular item is 58.5% pure gold, which is mixed with another metal.
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8. The number 750
Companies also used 750 to stamp the gold jewelry they sell. This marker is another way of notifying customers that they are buying 18-karat gold. Yes, you guessed right – if you have an 18-karat ring, it is made of 75% gold.
The remaining 25% is an impurity. Today, if you want to purchase 1 gram of 750 gold, it can cost you an average of $32.
9. The number 916
Jewelers use 916 for gold that is mainly pure. The price point for any jewelry marked with 916 is also high. Figure 916 can also be read as 22-karats, that’s 22 out of 24 parts of solid gold. Such items are made of 91.6 percent of pure gold.
10. The number 990
Gold hallmarks are there to tell you the karat purity of the jewelry piece you are interested in purchasing. When you see 990, among other gold markings on your item, it means your jewelry is 23-karat gold. That means that the impurities in that particular piece are only 1%.
11. The number 999
In the United States of America, 24-karat gold is the purest form of metal you can find in the market. This hallmark, in other countries, is often shown as 999.
Usually, such a piece is made of 99.9% pure gold. In the market, just one gram of 999 gold will cost you a minimum of $42.
Speaking of 99.9% purity, you can hardly find a jewelry made of 999 or 24K gold. This is because as the purity goes up, this precious metal becomes softer, or more malleable. No one would want their jewelry to deform easily, not to mention setting an expensive gemstone on it.
12. Alphanumeric: 18k HGE
One very common imprint on gold is 18K HGE. As previously discussed, HGE is short for hard gold electroplated. 18k HGE means that the jewelry item you are interested in was electroplated with 18 karat gold.
18 karat gold is 75% gold. But with the HGE stamp on it, it also means that the base of your jewelry is made up of cheaper metal. The gold coating on top, however, is solid gold with an 18-karat density.
A Little More about Gold
Gold is denoted at (Au) on the periodic table. This chemical element is a dense yellow precious metal. Because gold has several qualities, it has been an extremely valuable metal throughout history. While individuals are attracted by its color and brightness, jewelers are intrigued by its durability.
Gold is also highly malleable. Jewelers can easily hammer it and shape it without experiencing any cracks. Usually, gold is found in its purest form in the mines.
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Nevertheless, in the market, this pure form can cost buyers one month’s rent at a minimum. That is why jewelry made from a mixture of gold and other metals is frequently purchased instead.
Today, a lot of individuals looking to purchase gold are often targeted by con artists. After all, individuals are willing to pay any asking price for this precious metal. That is why certified manufacturers always recommend proceeding with caution.
The value of a jewelry piece is highly dependent on whether it is solid gold or gold plated. The latter can easily pass for solid gold if a person does not know how to read the gold markings. That is why, prior knowledge will help you the next time you shop. However, these hallmarks can be faked as well.
In case you wish to inspect whether or not your jewelry is pure gold, you can take some tips. One basic suggestion is to examine your jewelry for any fading around its edges. Holding the item close to a lamp and rotating it can show you any part that is fading.
These fading marks indicate that your item is not pure gold. Lastly, you can also use a magnet. Place the magnet directly above the jewelry. If you notice any reaction between the magnet and the jewelry piece, it means it’s not pure gold.