Jewelry 101: Metal markings, how to spot the real deals from the fakes

If you’ve inherited jewelry, but are unsure what you’re looking at, FWC Jewelers can help!

If you’ve acquired a collection of family heirlooms, you may be unsure what holds sentimental value and what has real monetary worth. Or, maybe one piece has become your favourite but has seen better days…

Brandon Jenkins Moak, co-owner of Federal Way Custom Jewelers has received many phone calls from individuals in similar situations. So many in fact, that Federal Way Custom Jewelers has officially added Heirloom Advising Services to their repertoire of specialty in-house offerings.

“We’ve always provided advising and appraising services to the community for free,” Moak says. “But the demand has grown so much lately, that we’ve felt the need to make it a more ‘official’ part of our services.”

Moak shares his expert insight on where to start looking for the answers as to whether a piece has strictly sentimental value or perhaps truly is ‘worth its weight in gold.’

Gold markings – Whether it’s yellow, white or rose gold, modern pieces of jewelry should have some form of marking denoting its worth, Moak says. Watch for American purity markings like 10k, 14k, 18k, 22k and 24k, and European markings like 375, 417, 585, 750, 900.

“Unfortunately, many antique or costume pieces are unmarked,” Moak says. “So, it’s best to bring these in for professional assessment.”

Examples of gold and gold plating marks. Photo courtesy of FWC Jewelers

Examples of gold and gold plating marks. Photo courtesy of FWC Jewelers

Gold plate markings – Plating is when an item is plated in a precious metal, over a non-precious base material, like brass. Their markings will look different than pure items, Moak says.

Older items might be marked 14k GF or 1/20th 12k GF for ‘gold filled,’ 14k RGP for ‘rolled gold plate,’ and 14k HGE or 14k EP for ‘high-gold-electroplate’ or ‘electroplate.’

“It’s very important to note, that sometimes 14kP can stand for 14k ‘gold plate’ but can also stand for 14k ‘gold plumb,’” Moak says. “Plumb gold meaning it has at least 14.0 karats of gold. Not a mistake you want to make! So items like these are also best to have assessed by trusted professionals.”

Silver & platinum markings – Most silver is marked Sterling, or 925, Moak says. Pure silver is typically marked 999, but some European silver will be marked 800. Platinum is usually marked PT or Plat but can be marked 800 or 900PT or 10%IridPlat.

Examples of silver and silver plating marks. Photo courtesy of FWC Jewelers

Examples of silver and silver plating marks. Photo courtesy of FWC Jewelers

Silver & platinum plate markings – “Like gold, plating is something to watch out for with silver and platinum as well,” Moak says.

Silver EP or EPNS both stand for ‘electroplated silver;’ ‘Nickel Silver’ and ‘German Silver’ are alloys that do not contain silver. Most solid silver pieces are clearly marked sterling and, if not, can be easily tested in house.

Now you know what it is… but how do you know what it’s worth?

“Items from known makers (Tiffany, Cartier, Rolex, etc.), original antiques and estate pieces in good condition are worth more, depending on their esthetic and collectible value,” Moak says. “Likewise, diamonds and gemstones in an item can make it much more valuable.”

Still unsure? Consider scheduling an Estate Advising Consultation online or by phone at 253-839-7389.

Learn more at fwcj.com or visit them in person beside Trader Joes at 1810 S. 320th St. Suite B, Federal Way, WA.

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