Have you ever wondered what the stamps on your jewelry mean? Jewelry hallmarks are commonly comprised of a purity stamp and a makers mark. Together, these markings tell the story of a piece of jewelry, detailing the fineness, or purity, of the metal, and traditionally a maker’s mark that traces back to the designer or bench jeweler that created the piece. Hallmarks can also tell you other things about origin like country and period the piece was created in but more about that later.
The purity stamp on modern jewelry refers to the purity of the metal. Below are the most common stamps, along with the minimum percentage of pure precious metal and common alloys. You can use our chart below to help identify the precious metals used in your jewelry.
|Purity Stamp||Common Reference||Minimum Percentage||Alloys||Alternate Stamps|
|.925||Sterling Silver||92.5% pure silver||Copper||925|
|.999||Fine Silver||99% pure silver||None||999|
|10k||10k gold||41.6% pure gold (10/24 parts)||Silver, zinc, nickel, copper- depends on the desired color.||16, 417, 10KP|
|14k||14k gold||58.3% pure gold (14/24)||Silver, zinc, nickel, copper||583, 585, 14KP|
|18k||18k gold||75% pure gold (18/24)||Silver, zinc, nickel, copper||750, 18KP|
|22k||22k gold||91.6% pure gold (22/24)||Silver, copper||916, 917|
|24k||24k gold||100% pure gold (24/24)||None||999|
|900 Platinum||Platinum||90% pure platinum (900/1000)||Rhodium, palladium||.900 Plat, Pt900|
|950 Platinum||Platinum||95% pure platinum (950/1000)||Rhodium, palladium||.950 Plat, Plat 950|
Silver and Platinum jewelry includes three-digit numbers, referring to parts per thousand. Platinum stamping is marked “.950 Pt”, “.950 Plat”, “950 Pt”, or “950 Plat”.
It is also important to establish the difference between the words karat and carat. Karat, relating to the purity of gold, is different in meaning (and spelling) from the word carat, which relates to a gemstone’s metric weight.
The maker’s mark refers to the designer of the pieces, also known as the jeweler’s or manufacturer’s mark. Renowned bench jewelers and hobbyist alike typically have their own maker’s mark that they stamp on finished pieces to identify them. In designer jewelry, pieces that bear these markings are often referred to as “signed” pieces. Below are several examples of jewelry displaying a maker’s mark:
The purity stamp and maker’s mark are generally stamped in close proximity to each other on jewelry and together these markings create the hallmark. Note that wear can affect how the stamps appear over time and sometimes marks are lost when pieces are resized. Unfortunately, the loss of a makers mark can actually decrease the value of a designer piece. The standard purity stamp is present on every piece of precious metal jewelry and actually is required by law in the US on pieces manufactured since 1906.
“In accordance with the law, it’s required by the U.S. government through the National Gold and Silver Stamping Act of 1906, that each and every gold and silver jewelry and related items purchased is marked with a quality mark and marked with a trademark.
The presence of the manufacture’s trademark is an important assurance that the ration of gold to alloy as represented by a stamp on the article is accurate, thus making it conform with the law.”