The Ultimate Guide to Jewelry Stamps and What They Mean
The art of metal stamping has been around for thousands of years, originating way back in 1238 A.D. However, jewelry stamps and what they mean have evolved over the years, carrying a very different significance than they did in ancient times.
Jewelry stamps identify the type and quality of the material used to create a piece of jewelry. The markings give the wearer important information about their jewelry and its value.
What Are Jewelry Stamps?
If you go to a jewelry store, either to admire or to purchase jewelry, you'll notice that each piece contains small markings. The markings might look like a series of numbers or letters or they may contain whole words.
While at first glance these stamps don't mean much, they're actually extremely important to understanding the piece of jewelry that you're purchasing.
Quality stamps on jewelry give the wearer information about the metal content and chemical composition of the piece of jewelry. They explain why a piece of jewelry has a certain value.
Quality stamps include information regarding the chemical composition of the metal in a piece of jewelry. The stamp explains the type of metal used, the weight of the metal, and the purity of the metal.
Another type of jewelry stamp that you might see is something called a maker's mark. Maker's marks are traditionally the initials or names of the manufacturer of the jewelry.
They provide evidence that a certain craftsman created that particular piece of jewelry. Some countries, such as France and Italy, require manufacturers to register their maker's mark with governing agencies to help verify the authenticity of a piece of jewelry.
Maker's marks are especially important in helping historians date pieces of jewelry. They help you understand what period a piece of jewelry is from and whether it is an antique.
Hallmarks are similar to quality stamps in that they are small impressions made into jewelry as a form of consumer protection. An assay office guarantees the Hallmarks to ensure the material is of a certain quality for sale.
The marks have a longstanding tradition, originating in England when goldsmiths had to mark their products with these stamps before the sale. Hallmarks vary based on the period of creation and the purity of the metal used.
Trained professionals can identify hallmarks to verify the age of a piece of jewelry. This allows them to assign value to antique jewelry.
Another type of mark that you might find on a piece of jewelry is something called a location mark or a town mark. These markings are typically images that denote where the piece of jewelry originated.
Location marks will vary based on which country a piece of jewelry originated from. Within a country, cities may have their own images that tell a buyer what part of the nation the piece originated.
For example, a British location mark is an image of a crown while a Scottish location mark is a thistle.
The History of Jewelry Stamps
The idea of stamping jewelry isn't anything new. Stamping jewelry first began back in 1238 A.D, when governing bodies began laying down laws about the quality of gold and silver.
This law was to ensure that buyers were not swindled out of their money, but were receiving the piece of jewelry that they had paid for. During this time, standards were set for the purity of different types of metals.
Silver had to have a purity of 92.5% while gold had to have a purity of 83%. Government officials went out to metalsmiths to ensure that they were abiding by these laws.
By 1327 A.D, the British government established the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths. Their job was to oversee the marking of precious metals and ensure that standards were uniform across the industry.
Modern Jewelry Stamps
The tradition of jewelry stamping has continued well into the modern age. Standards for jewelry stamping vary depending on the piece's country of sale.
Jewelers cannot sell their jewelry if it doesn't meet the legal standard. Any manufacturer who is exporting jewelry to another country will need to meet that country's requirements in order to sell his or her piece.
How Do You Read a Stamp on Jewelry?
Reading jewelry stamps is easy if you know what to look for. The most popular precious metals are gold, silver, and platinum and each one will contain its own jewelry stamp.
To read the stamp, you'll want to flip the piece over or examine the inside of the piece. You'll read the stamp from left to right, just like you would a book or a letter.
Each piece of the stamp denotes different information. You'll need to look for the date stamp, quality mark, and town stamp to determine all the available information about the jewelry.
Types of Jewelry Stamping and What They Mean
So, what do the stamps mean on jewelry? Great question! The meaning of jewelry stamps will depend based on what type of jewelry stamping is present on the accessory.
Here are a few of the common types of jewelry stamping and what they mean.
.925, 925, and Ster Stamps
When a piece of jewelry gets stamped with these stamps it means that they consist of sterling silver. Sterling silver means that the jewelry consists of 92.5% silver and the remaining percentage is another type of metal.
The reason that jewelers mix silver with other metals is that it is a very soft metal on its own. It needs the support and addition of a stronger metal to help it retain its shape and durability.
Typically, jewelers mix silver with copper. However, they can mix it with other metals as well. For instance, a gold ring that has a 925 stamp means that it is sterling silver coated in gold.
It's also important to note that sometimes there will be letters following a 925 stamp. The letters denote the maker's mark and let you know who manufactured the piece of jewelry.
Remember, there are thousands of jewelry manufacturers out there. You may have to do a little digging to figure out exactly who created your piece of jewelry.
10K, 14k, 18k, and 24k Stamps
These stamps denote the purity of gold.
10k symbolizes that a piece of gold consists of 41.6% pure gold, or 10 out of 24 parts. Jewelers most often combine gold with silver, zinc, copper, or nickel.
14k stamps show that a piece of jewelry consists of 14 out of 24 parts pure gold, or 58.3%. Most often, craftsmen mix these pieces of jewelry with nickel, silver, and copper zinc.
Jewelry with an 18k stamp has 18 parts out of 24 parts pure gold. This is 75% pure gold, with the remaining 25% consisting of copper, nickel, or silver.
If your jewelry has a 24k stamp it consists of 100% pure gold. This metal has no additives, but it can easily scratch and bend because it is very soft.
Remember, metal will not have a stamp that reads 'carat'. Carat measures the weight and purity of gemstones while karat measures the weight and purity of metals.
Aside from karat marks, gold will sometimes contain stamps known as assay marks. These marks denote the purity of a piece of gold as approved by an assay office.
The assay stamps for gold are:
The assay stamps for silver are:
The assay stamps for platinum are:
Assay stamps are most common on English gold. Each number stands for the percentage of the metal's purity. Assay marks can also be present on silver and platinum.
900 Platinum, 900 Plat, Plat 900, Pt900, and 900pt Stamps
These stamps are also commonly found on precious metals. They denote the amount of platinum contained in a piece of jewelry.
Each stamp signifies that a piece of jewelry contains 900 parts per 1000 parts platinum, or 90% platinum. Typically, craftsmen mix this metal with other alloys such as rhodium, palladium, and ruthenium.
If a piece has a higher percentage of platinum, the 900 number will be larger. For example, a piece containing 95% platinum will read 950plat to denote 950 parts per 1000 parts platinum.
Jewelry crafted by Pandora Jewelry has a mark that reads 'ALE'. All pieces of jewelry sold by this store contain this stamp.
Sk9 Platnaire Stamps
Sk9 stamps denote that a piece of jewelry is made out of platnaire. Platnaire is a hypoallergenic alloy.
Platnaire consists of 5% platinum, 92.5% silver, and 2.5% other elements. This metal never contains nickel, which is why it is considered safe for sensitive skin.
GE, GP, and GF Stamps
These stamps are used to symbolize gold plating and bonding. GE means that a piece of jewelry is gold electroplated. If it reads HE, the jewelry is heavy gold electroplated.
GP simply stands for gold plated. It is one of the most common jewelry stamps out there.
Finally, GF means that a piece of jewelry contains a layer of gold that is bonded to a base metal. You'll typically see this marking on watches.
IP stands for iron plating. It is a plating technique that uses physical vapor deposition and is extremely solid and durable.
Iron plating is most commonly used on blades and work tools. However, it is occasionally used on quality jewelry.
S.S. or St. Steel Stamps
S.S and St. Steel are stamps used to denote stainless steel. Stainless steel is an affordable metal and is hypoallergenic, making it popular for those with sensitive skin.
WGD means that a piece of jewelry is made out of weighted gold. Its meaning is similar to karat.
PD stamps signify that a piece of jewelry is made out of palladium. Palladium is an alloy in the platinum family.
KP is a symbol that means karat plumb. Karat plumb is a certification that means a piece of metal meets the karat listed or a higher karat.
For example, if a piece of jewelry is stamped with 18kp, that piece of jewelry is at least 18 karat gold.
The last type of stamp you may see is an antique stamp. These stamps begin with the letter 'A', signifying antique, and are followed by a few other letters standing for a specific type of plating or finish.
The most common antique stamps you will see include:
- ABP: Antique brass-plated
- ACF: Antique copper finish
- ACP: antique copper-plated
- AGF: Antique gold finish
- AGP: Antique gold plated
- ANP: Antique nickel plated
- ARF: Antique rhodium finish
- ARP: Antique rhodium plated
- ASF: Antique silver finish
- ASP: Antique silver plated
Remember, if your jewelry has one of these stamps it contains another metal underneath the plating.
One of the newest types of material that requires stamping is tungsten. Certified tungsten pieces have a stamp with the letters 'TE'. Tungsten manufactured in the United States is stamped with 'USA' following the letters 'TE'.
Are the Stamps on Jewelry Ever Incorrect?
If you're concerned that your piece of jewelry might be bearing an incorrect hallmark, you're right to feel worried. Con artists and scammers do attempt to swindle people out of their money using false hallmarks.
The key to making sure you're purchasing jewelry that truly is what it says, you need to make sure you're buying from a reputable seller. Check out the seller's reviews and date of establishment to see if they're legit.
On top of that, you can look for mark manipulation. Check to make sure that the mark hasn't been manipulated so that it reads differently.
For example, some con artists will polish the p off a kgp rating. That makes the piece look as though it is pure gold, rather than gold-plated.
Jewelry Stamps and What They Mean
The art of jewelry stamps and what they mean is fascinating and is a tradition that people will continue for generations. The unique way of creating stamped jewelry is something that helps us better understand the precious accessories in our wardrobes.
Do you want to stock your wardrobe with beautiful stamped jewelry? Place an order with our team and show off jewelry that's personalized for you.