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"Markings indicating real gold on jewelry"

(to help readers better understand the Q&A's)

Gold jewelry can come in various purities, and the system which is used pretty much universally and worldwide to describe that purity is karat (K). The K indicates how many parts out of 24 are actually real gold. If you have 24K gold, it's 24 parts out of 24, i.e., pure gold. Although simple jewelry can be made of 24K gold it is quite soft which can be a problem sometimes -- for example making tines to reliably hold a diamond out of 24K gold may not be workable.

If gold is 12K it is 12/24 pure gold, and 12/24 silver, copper, and/or other less expensive materials. Thus 14K gold will be slightly more expensive than 12K, and 18K more expensive still because there's more actual gold in it.

Not all "gold" jewelry is "karat gold"; much of it is gold plated, which means it is made of a less expensive metal covered with a thin coating of gold. In this case it will not have a K designation. But you'll probably see a few exceptions you need to understand, such as maybe "1/20 14K GF" which means 'gold filled' -- coated with such a heavy layer of 14K gold that it constitutes 1/20 of the weight of the piece.

Current question:

October 10, 2018

Q. I am not that familiar with the hammer head and the face silhouette. Can anyone please chime in?

Pamela Vidales
nurse - Yuma, Arizona

"World Hallmarks Vol. 1"
by Whetstone, Niklewicz, & Matula
from Abe Books

(affil. link)

October 2018

A. Hi Pamela. 18K means the composition is 18/24 gold, or 0.750, so my guess is that your bracelet is real 18 kt gold and probably quite valuable.

But as for the maker's marks like the face in profile, that's something you might have to spend some free time going through a number of hallmarking books to trying to research. We've posted thousands of requests to identify jewelry markings but only about a dozen answers -- and we're not special: every other site I visit on the subject says they can't answer questions due to the volume either. The human condition is that everyone is quite curious about the markings on their own jewelry but quite uninterested in the markings on anyone else's :-)


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

"World Hallmarks Vol. 2"
by Whetstone, Niklewicz, & Matula
from Abe Books

(affil. link)

July 12, 2021

Hi Pamela,
Did you ever find out any more about your bracelet, I have just purchased identical with same hallmark.
Many thanks, Karen



Karen Williams
- Warrington [England]

Closely related historical postings, oldest first:

"Hallmarks and Date Letters on Silver, Gold and Platinum"
by Eric Bruton
from Abe Books

(affil. link)


Q. What solvent can be purchased to determine if a piece of jewelry is in fact real gold or has been plated? Or what other methods can be used to determine if an item is real gold?

Kenneth Davis
the body sculptor - Washington, DC, USA


A. Gold is pretty inert, so to find a solvent that will dissolve it is not easy. I would suggest you check its density. Pure gold is pretty dense (19.3g/cm3) and there aren't many cheap metals near that.

trevor crichton
Trevor Crichton
R&D practical scientist
Chesham, Bucks, UK

"Jackson's Hallmarks"
by Ian Pickford
from Abe Books

(affil. link)


A. Testing Gold, please be careful, wear Rubber Gloves [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] and pay attention to the caution labels.

With a small file make a scratch in an inconspicuous spot. While wearing rubber gloves use a wooden, glass or plastic stick to apply a drop of nitric acid to this spot. Observe the reaction. When done, rinse everything well in running water.

-No reaction...................it's gold
-Bright green..................it's base metal
-Green in scratch..............gold layer over base metal
-Milky in scratch..............gold over silver
Marc Banks
- Elizabeth City, North Carolina

November 25, 2014

Q. Is a gold ring marked 14k pc real?

toby condit
- duncan,oklahoma

November 2014

A. Hi Toby. If it's marked 14k it legally has to be 14k, i.e., it's 14/24ths pure gold. It may be very difficult to figure out what 'pc' means though :-)


Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

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