One of the easiest ways to tell if a piece of jewelry is gold or not is to look for a stamp (10K, 14K, 18K, 22K, 24K).
In a perfect world, all gold jewelry is marked with a big, bright 14K stamp. In the real world, there are hard-to-read stamps, stamps that mean gold-plated, stamps that are fake…and the list goes on.
Here are a few stamps which signify the piece is NOT gold:
- 14K 1/20 (1/20 gold is basically gold-filled)
- 14K G.F. (gold-filled)
- 14K G.P. (gold-plated)
- 14K H.G.E. (hydrostatic gold electroplating)
- 14K G.E.P. (gold electroplating)
- .925 (sterling silver)
Anything with one of these stamps is not gold. It is made out of a different metal with a very thin gold layer that will wear off over time. These pieces do not have any real metal value and most gold buyers won’t purchase them from you (with the exception of sterling silver).
Stamps that mean your piece IS gold:
- A plain 14K stamp
- 14K P (The “P” stands for plumb gold)
- 14K with a company logo after such as 14K <3
- 417 (10K, means 41.7% gold)
- 585 (14k, means 58.5% gold)
- 750 (18K, means 75% gold)
- 917 (22K, means 91.7% gold)
- 999 (24K, means 99.9% gold)
That being said, even if your piece is stamped “14K” you cannot be 100% sure it is gold. There are a number of fake stamps out there and the only way to be 100% sure is to test the metal with a gold tester using nitric acid. On the other hand, even if there is no stamp it could still be gold.
Aside from the stamps or lack thereof, there are a couple other ways you (or most likely a jeweler) will be able to tell if the piece is gold:
- If the piece is tarnished or discolored in a way that’s not typical of gold (certain gold can discolor)
- By the weight (gold is very dense and therefore it should weigh more than any other non-gold piece its same size)
Hopefully this helps you sort out the shoebox full of jewelry that you just inherited.