Stamps on gold jewelry are perceived as an indication of the item’s authenticity. But does gold have to be stamped? Is a gold stamp really a guarantee of quality? And what should you do it a gold piece is not stamped?
What Stamps Can You See on Gold Jewelry?
Gold jewelry is usually stamped with markings indicating its karat number.
Karat is a measure of gold purity, with 24 karats being the highest possible value, indicating that a piece is 99.99% gold.
For example, a “14K” stamp means that the piece is 14 karats, and a “10Kt” stamp means that the item is 10 karats.
Other stamps you can see on gold are numbers that indicate its purity in terms of parts per thousand rather than karats.
For example, the number 750 stamped on a piece of jewelry means that 75% of it is gold, which corresponds to 18 karats.
There are other letters that can be stamped next to the karat mark, and they give additional information as to the makeup of the jewelry.
For example, the letters “GP” indicate that the item is not solid gold but is actually gold plated. The stamp “GF” means that the piece is gold filled.
Does Real Gold Have to Be Stamped?
In the U.S., there is a law that mandates that gold jewelry sold by a vendor must be stamped with a marking that indicates the item’s karat number.
The law also states that the real purity of the piece can deviate by up to 0.5 karats from the karat stamp. So, for example, a gold ring with a 14K stamp can have an actual purity of 13.8 or 13.6 karats, but no less than 13.5 karats.
Regulations regarding gold stamping vary across countries, but most of them have some sort of legislation that requires producers and vendors to indicate the purity of their gold jewelry.
Does a Karat Stamp Guarantee That a Piece of Jewelry Is Solid Gold?
In short, no, a stamp is not a guarantee that a piece is really gold.
For instance, gold-plated jewelry can have karat stamps, but they will indicate the purity of the gold plating, not of the entire piece. For example, the stamp “14K GP” means that the item is gold plated and the plating is 14-karat gold, but the piece is actually made of another metal.
So, the lesson is that you should always pay attention to whether there are other letters stamped besides the karat number.
Can You Trust Gold Stamps?
Although there are regulations that are supposed to prevent fraud, there is no guarantee that you won’t come across a counterfeit piece of “gold” jewelry.
A karat number might be wrong. Or, the karat number could be correct, but it could refer only to the plating of the jewelry, and there might not be any additional signs indicating that the item is actually plated and not solid gold.
The best guarantee that a piece of jewelry is actually gold is to test it for purity or to buy from a reputable jeweler that you are certain you can trust.
What to Do If Gold Jewelry Is Not Stamped?
There can be many reasons why gold jewelry might not be stamped.
It could be an old piece that was never stamped. Or, its stamp could have worn off.
Of course, there is also the possibility that the item is not actually gold.
Whatever the reason, make sure that you find out the karat of the piece before you buy it. The best way to do so is to have it tested for purity, preferably with nitric acid.
Most jewelers offer acid testing for gold to establish its karat. Gold testing kits are also available, if you prefer to test the gold yourself.
In any case, it is not recommended to buy unmarked gold jewelry of whose karat you are not sure.