Everyone knows how important good stone quality is when buying a piece of jewelry. However, buyers often neglect the quality of precious metals. The type of precious metal can have a huge impact on the overall value of your jewelry, but it is not the only important factor. If you plan to wear a piece of jewelry every day, or if you regularly put pressure on it, a good quality precious metal can keep it from seeing deterioration over time.
Gold is rightly one of the most popular precious metals. However, gold has gradations of quality, just like silver or platinum. Before purchasing any piece of gold jewelry, it is important to understand how quality is determined. Read on to find out everything you need to know about gold trademarks – what they’re used for, what they describe, and what trademarks to look out for.
What are gold trademarks?
Gold stamps were created in the 13th century to show the delicacy and caratages of gold. Marks are usually located on a discreet part of a piece of jewelry, such as the inner part of rings. Each trademark contains a trademark of an Assay Office. Trademarks of certain manufacturers were later added. The English term “Hallmark” comes from the London Goldsmith’s Hall, where King Edward III. The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths gave permission to run the business.
Countries have postponed laws related to gold trading, including labeling. Selling items under 1g called gold is illegal in the UK. Every gold item must have an inspection bureau mark. US law does not make labels mandatory. Retailers can provide the gold quality information on a label next to the item or even verbally.
In 1972 a group of 21 European nations developed the Vienna Convention on the Control of Fineness and Marking of Precious Metal Objects. The convention created a common control mark, a scale symbol with the purity number of a precious metal in the center. So if you buy a gold item in one of the member countries, it must have a trademark.
What types of gold trademarks are there?
Since each country determines which markings are mandatory, the markings on gold items vary. However, gold stamps form several main categories. For example, in the UK, mandatory marks include the manufacturer’s mark, the Assay Office mark and the fineness mark. Manufacturer, date and type of jewelry brands are optional. In the United States, you may come across designer, tally, retailer, and service brands. Sometimes patent and inventory numbers are engraved on jewelry.
The fineness mark determines the purity of gold. Sometimes the fineness of gold is marked as 375, 585, 750, 916, or 999, indicating the number of gold pieces per thousand. You can see the gradation of fineness in carats – the standards often used are 9 ct, 14 ct, 18 ct and 22 ct.
The manufacturer’s mark shows who is responsible for the piece of jewelry. Despite popular belief, the manufacturer’s brand does not necessarily have to state who the creator is, but rather who sent an item to the Assay Office. In some countries, a manufacturer, retailer, or importer must brand an item when submitting it for evaluation.
The Assay Office icon indicates which Assay Office is responsible for evaluating the item. Vintage items may have marks from test bureaus that no longer exist.
How is gold purity measured?
Knowing the gold purity measurement system helps to understand which mark should be tracked. The total weight of a piece of jewelry is measured in grams, while the gold content is measured in carats or, in some countries, in carats. Therefore, carats determine the fineness of an object.
The highest possible purity is 24 carats, which contains 99.9% gold. However, jewelry rarely contains 24 carat gold because it is too soft. Manufacturers use alloys to increase the durability of gold and change its color. For example, to make white gold, manufacturers use palladium or silver alloys. 18 carat gold contains 75% pure gold, 14 carat – 58.5% and 9 carat gold contains only 37.5% gold.
Which gold purity should one choose?
The more, the better the law doesn’t always work with gold fineness. Jewelers tend to use 14 karat or 18 karat gold instead of pure gold due to its softness. The 9ct is most commonly found in the UK.
The first factor that characterizes the Gold Valley is its purity. The more gold the item contains, the higher its price. However, if you do not want to resell your piece of jewelry, there are other factors to consider.
The higher the gold purity, the more yellow the gold appears. Therefore, 14 karat gold items have a more distinguishable hue than 18 karat items. If you prefer white or rose gold, consider downgrading the fineness for a lighter shade.
Another feature that buyers often overlook is durability. Since 14 karat gold contains a higher proportion of alloy metals, it is more durable and can be better with constant wear. 14 karat gold jewelry is less prone to physical damage such as pressure and scratches.
Last but not least, gold items are hypoallergenic. However, the risks are not zero – the higher the proportion of alloy metals, the greater the likelihood of skin irritation. For this reason, people with allergies to copper, silver, or nickel most often choose 18-carat or 14-carat gold.
Is the manufacturer’s brand important?
The manufacturer’s mark is not mandatory in some parts of the world. In addition, the number of manufacturer brands in place is impressive, and understanding these brands is not as straightforward as the purity brands.
The same jewelry maker may have different maker brands over the years, and some masters add a serial number next to the brand. Manufacturer brands can often be deceiving, but they’re also a great tool for valuing jewelry, especially vintage items.
Some manufacturer brands correspond to a specific designer or jeweler. The value of vintage items often depends on the manufacturer and the date of manufacture. Therefore, if you are considering buying an antique piece of jewelry, it is a good idea to evaluate it. A person skilled in the art will likely be able to tell which epoch an item belongs to and whether the item is rare. However, the lack of a manufacturer’s mark does not mean that a piece of jewelry is of little value. If an item is more than 100 years old, the trademark can simply be deleted.
The Assay Office evaluates an item according to legal standards. An Assay Office brand can determine the country of origin and the date of manufacture of the item. For example, there are currently four assay offices in the UK – in Birmingham, Edinburgh, London and Sheffield. For example, a Glasgow Assay Office branded jewelry is likely to be manufactured before 1964, as there were six other Assay Offices before that.
What is to be considered?
Many antique jewelry items bear rare hallmarks that the majority of buyers may be unfamiliar with. For example, some Victorian items have a sovereign’s head engraved – a customs mark related to a precious metals tax imposed in the late 18th century. Therefore, there is usually no reason to be suspicious of additional characteristics that you do not recognize.
Some retailers engrave their logo on jewelry. If a piece of jewelry only has the retail mark but does not have the purity mark of an assay bureau, it is likely not a quality mark but a design element.
Some retailers are promoting 1 carat gold these days. Most countries have set a legal threshold of 9 ct for an item to be considered gold. The amount of gold in a 1ct item is so insignificant that it lacks all of the properties that make gold so valuable. Therefore, advertising 1 carat gold is a deceptive and often illegal ploy.
The value of gold trademarks
Hopefully by now you know everything you need to know about gold brands. Knowing this, buying jewelry becomes less risky.
In addition, with vintage jewelry it can be helpful to know different hallmarks in order to find a really rare piece.
If you are unsure about the meaning of trademarks on your piece of jewelry, please contact a professional for a rating.