by Dr. Lori Verderame
Use my gold jewelry list of marks when valuing your thrifting finds. When it comes to fine or costume jewelry, knowing what the gold standard really is, becomes very important if you are a jewelry collector, buyer, or reseller. Necklaces, bracelets, earrings, rings, anklets, pins, and brooches are offered in every type of gold from solid gold to vermeil. And, if you don’t know the difference between the many types of gold jewelry, you can stand to lose a lot of money or end up with a cheap piece on which you spent a small fortune.
Gold jewelry comes in many shapes and sizes, karat fineness amounts and various combinations. Gold jewelry can be the basis for everything from Native American jewelry, big name costume jewelry like Trifari, Weiss, Renoir, Eisenberg, Ben Amun, and really fine jewelry like pieces made by Van Cleef and Arpels or Cartier to name a few.
Dr. Lori’s Ultimate Gold Guide with its gold jewelry list of marks is shared here and developed from my many years of honing my fine jewelry and costume jewelry appraisal expertise. Plus, don’t miss reading my list of gold jewelry karat marks for more information.
When you can, choose fine jewelry in 24 karat, 18 karat, or 14 karat gold. If you are not in the market to purchase high priced fine jewelry or you don’t have the opportunity to purchase fine jewelry, then consider high quality costume jewelry. Costume jewelry that uses some of the tried-and-true plating processes and other techniques for gold is the best bet.
As you deal with gold jewelry of any type, you need to know the marks that set each piece apart. Here’s what you need to know in order to cash in on gold fine or costume jewelry. No matter the type of gold jewelry you are looking for or if you are trying to correctly identify a piece of gold jewelry or gold tone jewelry, use my gold jewelry list of marks to confirm what type of process was used to make your piece of gold jewelry. Knowing how to tell the difference will empower you when you are shopping for that perfect piece of jewelry for yourself, for your own collection, or for resale. If you are a reseller and you are sifting through a jewelry jar, thrift store blue box, or an estate sale find of gold jewelry, then my gold jewelry guide will help you know how to value your haul. Look no further, the answers to all your questions about gold jewelry and how it is made and how it will wear over time are right here. Read on to learn the gold jewelry list of marks.
14KP – Plumb
14KP means 14 karat plumb. When a piece of jewelry is marked 14KP that marks references that the piece of jewelry is exactly 14 karat gold. The hallmark that is very commonly seen, that is 14 karat, is a fineness or quality mark and not a weight measurement. When a piece is marked 14KP, that means that the piece is exactly 14 karat gold. The piece is solid gold. The addition of the P for plumb indicates that the manufacturer has taken the time to indicate that they karat fineness of the piece of jewelry is exact. This term derives from the French work plombe or plum indicating something that is exact. The 14KP mark for 14 karat plumb gold will rarely be found on costume jewelry pieces since costume jewelry pieces are rarely of the fineness quality level of 14 karat gold.
14KGP – Gold Plated Jewelry
14KGP means 14 karat gold plated jewelry. Gold plated jewelry has a required amount of ½ micron of fine gold. This will help you to identify the quality of such pieces. In order of thickness of gold used in gold jewelry plating, heavy gold-plated pieces of jewelry have 2.5 micron of gold plating thickness, gold plated pieces have ½ micron, gold electroplated pieces or gold wash or gold flash pieces of jewelry have .175 micron of gold plating thickness. Jewelry can be gold, rhodium, or nickel plated too. When a piece of jewelry is plated, that means that a thin layer of that specific type of metal like gold is added to a piece.
Some costume jewelry pieces marked 14KGP are regularly found. These pieces are, by comparison, the higher end costume jewelry pieces by some of the well-known designers. rarely of the fineness quality level of 14 karat gold.
14KRGP – Rolled Gold Plated Jewelry
14KRGP means 14 karat rolled gold plated jewelry. The term that is used in jewelry making called rolled gold plated (also known as gold overlay) uses a bonding process but it does not use as much gold as gold filled pieces of jewelry. In fact, rolled gold plated pieces must have at least 1/40th amount of gold to the total weight of the piece. When a piece of rolled gold plated jewelry is marked, it may indicate the fraction of gold used in the rolled gold plating process such as 1/40 14KGP.
There are costume jewelry pieces that are marked 14KRGP on the piece. These pieces are regularly found and are collected widely.
14KHGE -Heavy Gold Electroplated Jewelry
14KHGE means 14 karat heavy gold electroplated jewelry. When a piece of jewelry is marked 14KHG, that means it is 14 karat heavy gold electroplated indicating that the gold plating layer was applied by electroplating process.
Vermeil indicates that 1/1000th of an inch of gold has been overlaid atop another metal. This is not heavy gold electroplated jewelry but rather vermeil. Often vermeil is applied over sterling silver or another base metal in jewelry making. Gold vermeil is a type of gold plating that is commonly used and it typically is hosted by a piece of jewelry that is sterling silver as its base metal. While vermeil offers a thicker layer of gold plating than typical gold plating, it is not solid gold and it has other metals united with the gold to make the piece of jewelry. Vermeil offers a lower cost option for those who suffer from some metal allergies. Even vermeil like other gold plating can wear off with heavy wear.
Costume jewelry is regularly vermeil.
14 KGF – Gold Filled Jewelry
14 KGF means 14 karat gold filled jewelry. Gold filled jewelry means that a piece of jewelry has been manufactured in a process where a sheet of metal, not gold, has been bonded with thin sheets of gold. A machine bonds a layer of gold onto a piece of brass or other base metal. The layers of base metal and gold are then rolled thin. This thin piece of gold filled metal is then used to cast pieces of jewelry, everything from bracelets to earrings to necklaces and more. If a gold layer is bonded to another metal and marked gold filled, that means that at least 1/20th of the total weight of the metal is gold. It can only be marked gold filled if the object has at least 1/20th of the total weight in gold. Gold filled jewelry has a layer of gold pressure bonded to sterling silver or other base metals. It is tarnish resistant but not tarnish free. Government regulations require that gold filled jewelry meets a standard for the amount of gold that is included in a piece of jewelry. This standard amount that must be included is based on the piece’s overall weight. The outer layer has a particular gold fineness quality of 10 karats, 12 karats, 14 karats, etc.
While gold filled jewelry sounds like gold plated jewelry if you compare the materials, the process is different. Gold filled jewelry has gold melted onto the base metal. It must contain 5% gold by weight making the gold-plated coating thicker than most gold-plated jewelry. Gold filled jewelry will initially have a gold color and sheen but over time, it may discolor or tarnish. This impacts the overall look and value of a piece of gold-filled jewelry when it is compared to gold plated jewelry.
Costume jewelry pieces of all types, necklaces, bracelets, brooches, pins, earrings, etc. are very often gold filled and are marked as gold filled.
Solid Gold jewelry – 24 karat gold
24 karat gold means that a piece of jewelry is solid gold or 100% gold. Solid gold or 24 karat gold is a soft metal that is fragile and weak. To work with 24 karat gold, other alloys are mixed with it to make a stronger work friendly gold that is still considered solid gold. Costume jewelry is not typically solid gold.
Fine Gold jewelry – 14 karat gold
14 karat gold means that a piece of jewelry is 14 parts of 24 parts pure gold or 58.5 % pure gold. 14 karat gold is the traditional fineness gold that is used in most jewelry as it is 14 parts solid or pure gold and 10 parts of other metal alloys to strengthen the gold. 18 karat gold is 18 parts solid or pure gold and 6 parts of other metal alloys also to strengthen the gold and make it easier to work in the jewelry casting environment for jewelry designers. When it comes to pieces made of 14 karat, 18 karat, and 24 karat gold jewelry, these pieces will not tarnish, will not fade, and will not look dull over time with wear and typical good care.
Costume jewelry is not typically fine gold jewelry that is 14 karat gold.
Recycled solid gold
Recycled solid gold is not the same as gold plated, vermeil or gold overlay pieces of jewelry. Recycled solid gold pieces use old pieces that have been reworked but made of gold with high karat fineness levels like 18 karat or 14 karat gold. Recycled solid gold is a high-quality option of fine jewelry. Some jewelry that is gold plated, gold overlay, or gold filled has a gold tone appearance that can fade or dull over time. When dealing with jewelry that is not solid gold or 14 karat or 18 karat gold, do not wash, rinse, rub, or store these pieces next to other pieces of jewelry as the plating can be worn. Fashion jewelry or low-quality jewelry uses many techniques to keep costs low.
Costume jewelry is not typically made from recycled solid gold jewelry but in some cases, some very specific, designers may use this material on occasion.
Check out my recommendations about proper storage, packaging, and display of your jewelry pieces including my favorite jewelry storage boxes to protect your jewelry pieces. Watch videos on my YouTube channel as I show you more tips about gold jewelry and highlight this gold jewelry list of marks.