scroll top

Complete guide to symbols stamped on jewelry

We get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. Here's more on how we make money.

Symbols stamped on jewelry can help you learn where your jewelry is from, when it was made, what metals it’s made of, and most importantly, how much it’s worth.

If you are looking to sell any precious metal jewelry, we recommend selling to CashforGoldUSA.com or its sister site, CashforSilverUSA.com. Both sites offer:

  • Payouts within 24 hours
  • A+ Better Business Bureau rating
  • 100% free door-to-door, trackable FedEx or USPS shipping
  • Purchases with no minimum value 
  • Free Jewelers’ Mutual insurance up to $100,000 per shipment
  • Lloyds of London insurance in facility

Get a free estimate on your gold jewelry from CashforGoldUSA or on your silver jewelry from CashforSilverUSA >>

Keep reading for a guide to jewelry stamps identification:

Symbols stamped on jewelry: How do I identify my jewelry markings?

Gold, silver, and platinum jewelry can be stamped or engraved with a number of small marks, usually placed in discreet places — like the back of an earring, inside of a bracelet or engagement ring, or on the clasp of a necklace or chain

Here’s what common symbols stamped on jewelry actually mean: 

Purity

Most fine jewelry is made of a metal alloy — a mixture of a precious metal like gold or silver combined with other metals to improve its durability (like yellow gold, white gold, sterling silver, etc.). These metals are too soft on their own to be used in jewelry. 

Gold jewelry is often marked with a number followed by a K to show how much pure gold it contains, also known as its caratage. The higher the number, the higher the percentage of pure gold (and the more expensive): 

  • 24k = 99.9% pure gold
  • 18k = 75% pure gold, 25% other metals
  • 14k = 58.3% pure gold, 41.7% other metals
  • 10k = 41.7% pure gold, 58.3% other metals

Sterling silver is an alloy of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper or nickel (copper is most common). 

Even platinum is mixed with other metals in smaller quantities to make jewelry, typically between 1-5%. 

While these markings are highly regulated and required in most of Europe, the United States does not require them. 

However, the National Gold and Silver Stamping Act of 1906 does aim to prevent jewelry manufacturers from misrepresenting the “actual fineness” (purity) of the metal alloy it’s made of — whether the piece itself is marked or it’s sold with a tag or in a box that indicates its purity.

Patents

In 1948, jewelry was included in the definition of artistic craftsmanship under U.S. copyright law and was officially protected under the Copyright Act of 1976. Some more modern jewelry pieces may be marked with a circled C (usually next to the manufacturer’s name or symbol) to indicate its design is copyrighted.

Before jewelry obtained copyright protection, however, jewelry makers had to apply for patents to protect their designs from being copied by competitors. Some older pieces of jewelry — like antique or estate jewelry — may be marked with the letter D followed by several numbers, which indicate the piece has a design patent. 

You can search the patent number marked on your jewelry on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website to find out what year it was patented. If the patent number is less than seven digits, enter zero after the D for each digit less than seven (for example, D123 on a piece of jewelry would be entered as D0000123 in the search). 

Maker’s markings

Maker’s markings are stamped on jewelry to indicate a piece’s authenticity. These marks are typically of the manufacturer’s initials, name, or a symbol that represents their brand.  

Jewelry with the following maker’s markings have a high resale value:

Symbols stamped on gold jewelry: What do the letters stamped on my gold jewelry mean?

The most common mark on gold jewelry signifies its purity (the percentage of pure gold it contains). This is indicated by a number followed by a K or ct.

List of letter markings on gold jewelry

24k, 24ct, 999.9, or 99999.9% pure gold
22k, 22ct, 916 or 91791.6-91.7% pure gold, 8.3-8.4% other metals
18k, 18ct, or 75075% pure gold, 25% other metals
14k, 14ct, 583 or 58558.3-58.5% pure gold, 41.5-41.7% other metals
10k, 10ct, 416 or 41741.6-41.7% pure gold, 58.3-58.4% other metals
Gold-filled, GF, gold-plated or gold electroplateItem is plated in gold 

Sell your gold jewelry with CashforGoldUSA >>

Symbols stamped on silver jewelry: What do the letters stamped on my silver jewelry mean?

Silver jewelry is usually stamped with a three-digit number to indicate the purity of the silver it contains. The most common marking on silver jewelry is 925, which indicates the jewelry is made of sterling silver — an alloy of 92.5% silver and 7.5% of another metal (typically copper). 

List of silver identification marks

SymbolSilver quality
950 – Brittania silver / Walking lion symbol95% pure silver, 5% other metals
925, S925 – Sterling silver92.5% pure silver, 7.5% other metals
900 – Coin silver90% pure silver, 10% other metals
800, 825, 830, 850 – European silver80-85% pure silver, 15-20% other metals
Silver-plated or silver electroplateItem is plated in silver

Sell your silver jewelry with CashforSilverUSA >>

Here is a pic of the back of a silver necklace from an ex-boyfriend (um, I only wear yellow gold, dude!), stamped “STERLING”:

Back of sterling silver necklace charm with marking..

FAQs about jewelry stamps and markings

Does gold jewelry always have a stamp?

No, gold jewelry is not always stamped. Though countries like the United Kingdom have laws that require precious metal jewelry to be stamped with its caratage, the U.S. does not currently require jewelers to stamp purity marks on precious metals (though it does have laws to prevent jewelers from misrepresenting metal purity).

If you have gold-colored jewelry without a stamp, you can test to see if it’s real gold in a few ways (or you can get a jewelry appraisal): 

  1. Hold it in a lighter flame — real gold will get bright hot after a while but will not darken (other metals will darken, and gold plating will melt off).
  2. Test it with a strong magnet — gold is not magnetic.
  3. Put it in water — real gold will not float and will not rust.
  4. Wear it — real gold jewelry will not turn your skin black or green.

How do you read hallmarks?

Jewelry hallmarks are often written as a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols. Here's how to read them:

Numbers – Three-digit numbers stamped on jewelry represent its purity. For example, 583 stamped on a piece of gold jewelry indicates the jewelry contains 58.3% pure gold (which means it is 14k gold). Silver jewelry might be stamped with 950, which represents Brittania sterling silver (95% pure silver).

Letters – Letter stamps represent the year a piece of jewelry was hallmarked, in a font that changes every 26 years (after the 26 letters have been cycled through). In 2000, the letters started at A again (the year 2022 is represented by an X).

Symbols – Hallmarks indicate jewelry has been certified and authenticated by an assay office, which tests the purity of precious metal jewelry. Each assay office has its own unique symbol that is stamped on the jewelry it assays. If you find a leopard head stamped on your jewelry, for example, you know it was certified by the London assay office.

Across most of Europe, hallmarks are required by law. However, they are not required or regulated in the United States. Some U.S. jewelry companies have their jewelry assayed in Europe to be able to sell it abroad.

All about selling gold by searching “sell gold near me”

Which hallmark gold is best?

999 or 999.9 hallmarked gold represents gold that is at least 99.9% pure, which makes it the most valuable. However, gold with this purity is considered too soft for jewelry making. 916 or 22k gold, which is 91.6% pure, is considered the purest gold suitable for jewelry.

CashforGoldUSA accepts gold jewelry of any purity (but not gold-plated items). It also accepts gold bullion, gold scrap, gold coins, and dental gold.

Get a free estimate today >>

What do the letters stamped on my gold jewelry mean?

The most common mark on gold jewelry signifies its purity (the percentage of pure gold it contains). This is indicated by a number followed by a K or ct.

What do the letters stamped on my silver jewelry mean?

Silver jewelry is usually stamped with a three-digit number to indicate the purity of the silver it contains. The most common marking on silver jewelry is 925, which indicates the jewelry is made of sterling silver.

Does gold jewelry always have a stamp?

No, gold jewelry is not always stamped. Though countries like the United Kingdom have laws that require precious metal jewelry to be stamped with its caratage, the U.S. does not currently require jewelers to stamp purity marks on precious metals.

Which hallmark gold is best?

999 or 999.9 hallmarked gold represents gold that is at least 99.9% pure, which makes it the most valuable. However, gold with this purity is considered too soft for jewelry making. 916 or 22k gold, which is 91.6% pure, is considered the purest gold suitable for jewelry.

Wealthysinglemommy.com founder Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist, author and expert. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, Elle, O, The Oprah Magazine. Winner of Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web” and a New York Observer “Most Eligible New Yorker," her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was a New York Post Must Read. As an expert on divorce and gender, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality and multiple state legislature hearings. More about Emma's credentials.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.