The National Stamping Act of 1906 set stamping requirements for gold and silver imported or made in the U.S. This Act requires gold to be marked within 3/1000 of the actual alloy. Watch cases and flatware can be within 7/1000 of the marked alloy. The Federal Trade Commission regulates the stamping of gold and other metals placed in the marketplace. The FTC specifically protects the consumer of gold and silver jewellery, but also regulates optical frames, pens and pencils, hollowware and flatware. You can read gold stamps with a jeweller's loupe.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Magnifying glass
- Jeweller's loupe
Use a magnifying glass to check your gold items for marks. Gold markings may be found on the inside of a ring, the back of a piece of jewellery, on the edge or even on the pin or clasp. The ring of a pen or pencil or the edge of silver-handled or gold-handled flatware may indicate the karatage. If you can see a mark but cannot read it, use the loupe to read the stamped mark on your gold item.
Hold the jeweller's loupe to your eye and adjust the gold item to reading length. Items marked 10K are most common in the U.S. market and represent .417 or 41.7 per cent gold content. Imported items may be marked .417. Gold marked 14K is .585 or 58.5 per cent gold content and 18K is .750 gold content.
Look for marks that are low gold content. H.G.E. is heavy gold electroplate, often used for rings. The use of R.G.P. or G.F. designates rolled gold plate or gold-filled items with no less than 1/20 10K gold.
Refer to a jewellery marks book for logos or other marks on your item to identify the manufacturer. Dorothy T. Rainwater's "Encyclopedia of American Silver Manufacturers" is the standard for silver, and many of the manufacturers who used silver also manufactured gold items. Another of her books is "American Jewelry Manufacturers," which identifies logos with pictures.
Tips and warnings
- Items marked 14 KP are plumb gold, measuring exactly 14K with no variance.
- Some handcrafted items made for family or friends may not have gold stamps and may still be gold.
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- Electronic Code of Federal Regulations: 16 C.F.R. Guides For The Jewelry, Precious Metals, and Pewter Industries
- Federal Trade Commission: Guides for the Jewelry, Precious Metals, and Pewter Industries
- Cornell University Law School; Legal Information Institute; 15 U.S.C. 295 -- Standard of Fineness of Gold Articles; Deviations
- "American Jewelry Manufacturers"; Dorothy T. Rainwater; 1997
- Gold.com: Understanding Karatage