precious metalBeing in the jewelry buying business, I buy a lot of gold.  But, before I buy any gold, I do two things.  First, I look for a quality mark with my loupe and then I test it with our gold tester to see if the purity of the metal matches the stamp on the gold.  I realize that not everyone has a gold tester, and sometimes you might find a 14 kt stamp on an item that is not really 14 karat gold, so it’s important to know how to tell if your precious metal is really precious.

Precious Metal – The Definition

Precious metal is basically gold, silver and platinum.  These days, palladium can also fall under that category as well.  Although each has its own unique characteristics, there are some things they do have in common:

  • They are heavy or have weight,
  • They reflect light and
  • They are either a bright yellow or a white color

Quality Marks or Stamps

First, the stamp tells you the karats or how pure the precious metal is; the higher the karat the higher the purity.  Different countries have different standards of how they regulate the purity of their precious metals, so that is why it is important to know the different stamps and how to recognize them, both as a consumer and a jewelry buyer.

Stamps in the United States

  • Gold is marked with “kt” and a manufacturer’s trademark, if your jewelry is from a manufacturer and not custom made or from a small design house.
  • Silver can be stamped “silver” or “sterling silver” or 925.
  • Platinum is marked “plat.” or “pt.”

Stamps in Britain

  • Gold is marked with a crown stamp and the fineness of the metal in thousands or karats
  • Sterling Silver has a figure of a lion walking with its farthest forepaw raised and must be 92.5 % pure
  • Britannia Silver is 95.8% pure and has a seated female figure that symbolizes Britain stamped on it
  • Platinum that is 95% pure is symbolized by a cross on top of a round globe
  • Palladium that is 50, 95 or 99.9% pure is a figure symbolizing Pallas Athene, the Greek goddess of war, wearing a helmet

Stamps in Italy

  • Gold must be 18 kt by law, unless for export.  Must have 18 kt stamp and Star of Italy stamp, number that indicates the order in which the company applied for a stamp in its province and two letters that indicate the province where the company is locates. If exported to US, must be stamped ITALY.

If Your Jewelry Doesn’t Have All Those Stamps…Don’t Panic!

If you are dealing with smaller design houses or custom made jewelry, such as Jonathan’s Fine Jewelers, your jewelry will be marked, and it will be exactly what you get, but there will not be a manufacturers mark, because we aren’t manufacturers.

The important thing is to know what to look for, especially when you are dealing with jewelry that is bought from places that are overseas, so if you do decide to sell your gold, you aren’t told that it isn’t really gold when it is tested!

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