Gold is used in the manufacture of personal jewelry, watches and watch cases, pendents, ornaments and other items of intrinsic value. Most recognized gold pieces contain some mark or stamp to differentiate them from other brands, origins and weights. Any person who owns a piece of gold that contains a minimum purity of above 10 percent by volume (in weight) can identify the specific characteristics of their gold by reading the engraved or stamped marks upon its surface.
Karat marks, dates, assaying marks or country of origin stamps on a piece of gold jewelry appear either on the clasp or somewhere very near it. Rings commonly have a mark on the inside upper part of the band; necklaces have a mark on the outside of the flattest piece of the clasp. Ornamental gold used in table items such as bells, cups, and candelabras will have a mark or stamp on the bottom of the piece, usually somewhere under the stand.
Karat weight describes the percentage of gold used in the manufacture of a piece. Karat weight will be marked with a "K" after a number. For instance, 14K gold contains 583 parts per thousand of pure gold; "583" represent the 58.3 percent of gold used in the alloy. However, European countries commonly mark their gold in percentages instead. The higher the karat number or percentage, the more gold it contains and therefore the more expensive it is. Common karat numbers include 10-, 12-, 14-, 18- and 24-karat weights.
Gold Percentages: European
European pieces contain percentage values instead of karats in their identifying marks. Gold that has 12 karats will contain 50 percent gold, 14-karat equals 58.333 percent gold, 18-karat gold tabulates to 75 percent gold, 22-karat equals 91.671 percent gold and 24-karat contains 100 percent pure gold. The first two figures of the mark will indicate the percentage number, even if additional numbers follow. For instance, a European ring marked 750 still indicates 75 percent gold in weight.
If you look carefully at your gold piece, you might be able to see a small stamped symbol; these symbols are very hard to see without the aid of a magnifying glass. The symbols represent the country and location where the gold was assayed. The symbol markings adhere to the regulations and participation of the country of origin as recognizing the convention of the "Common Control Mark." To decipher the symbol, you must match up the symbol to a standard list to identify its country of origin and location.
Not all gold jewelry comes with marked dates; some examples have a single stamped letter of the alphabet to denote the exact date. These are identified through a range of years in one type font style. One range begins at 1916 and ends in 1935; it has the letters A through U, identified by the same type font. The next range, with a different but consistent font, ranges from 1936 to 1955, using the letters A to U. The next different font ranges from 1956 to 1974, and uses the letters A to T. From 1975 to 1999, the letters A through Z are used in another font, and new font starts from 2000 to present..