A piece of jewelry with an etching that reads “18k” or “750” indicates that it is made up of 75 percent gold, while a “14k” or “585” mark indicates the metal is constructed with 58.5 percent gold.
Jewelry engraved with HGE (Heavy Gold Electroplate), GE (Gold Electroplate), or GF (Gold Filled) may appear to be made of gold, but is actually fashioned from other materials such as copper and contains only a very small amount of gold.
Silver purity marks also specify metal content where sterling silver is 92.5 percent pure silver.
Therefore, for sterling silver, look for marks that include “925,” “STERLING,” “STG,” or “STER.” Watch out for metals that are etched with “German Silver” or “Nickel Silver”- these pieces are not made up of any silver at all, but are actually composed of copper, nickel, and zinc.
Any British jewelry made prior to 1999 were required to include a date letter stamp, a letter corresponding to the year that it was registered with the assay office.
Assay offices are official governmental establishments who are tasked to assay, or test, the purity of jewelry metals and in some cases, to hallmark the jewelry.
Since gold, silver, and branded jewelry are highly sought-after, encountering counterfeit jewelry is always a risk that collectors need to keep in mind.
If you’re purchasing jewelry online, always ask for clear pictures of the jewelry marks from the seller to help you ensure it’s a genuine piece.
Jewelry marks in France stretch back even earlier, with examples first seen in the 13th century.
An important year to know if you’re collecting French antique jewelry is the year 1797, when it was required to have a maker’s mark framed within a lozenge, a diamond-shaped charge that is often placed on the field of a shield.
If jewelry is marked with “Vermeil,” it is a piece of sterling silver topped off with gold plating.