High-quality jewelry bears markings that differentiate the metal type and quality; this is incredibly important when it comes to jewelry valuation. A common mark is the number “925.”
Luxurious and beautiful to behold, gold has stood the test of time and still holds in top spot when it comes to popular jewelry materials.
However, most people are not so sure about the different grades or levels of gold quality, and most gold jewelry available for purchase is not pure – rather it is a delicately blended mixture of gold and other metals.
When you see these numbers etched into your necklace or bracelet, you may be wondering what it actually means. Does it mean that your heirloom is pure gold? Does it mean that it has a quality score of 925 out of 1,000 or 10,000?
To answer that question, we need to first understand why jewelry is marked with defining numbers like this in the first place.
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Why Do We Mark Jewelry?
The simple answer to this question is that it provides a clear valuation indicator and lets experts instantly know the actual metal composition of the piece.
It may come as a surprise, but gold jewelry is almost always a composite of gold and another metal.
Gold is a soft, malleable metal that – if used on its own – would be unable to dependably stand up to the wear and tear that jewelry undergoes throughout its lifetime.
Often called a “hallmark,” the numbers or letters stamped onto a piece of gold jewelry show the purity level and also indicate what other metals the gold is mixed with.
Silver is one of the most commonly used mixture metals, but copper, zinc, rhodium, and nickel are all used fairly often as well. Mixing these metals results in jewelry that is “gold plated;” essentially, these pieces are first created with the support metal and then coated with a gold veneer of varying purity levels.
Several laws govern American-made jewelry; two in particular stand out, as they pertain to the hallmarks seen on modern jewelry pieces.
These laws – while relatively new to America – have been around for much longer in other parts of the world, specifically, marks found on pieces dating back to 14th century England and 13th century France.
What Does “925” Actually Stand For?
The 925 stamp on gold jewelry is actually a reference number to silver jewelry. It is an incredibly common number to find imprinted on jewelry pieces, and it refers to the standard quality grade of the metal itself.
A designation of 925 means that the silver is 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent alloy. An alloy is simply a metal mixture, and one of the most common metals mixed with silver is copper.
So what does this mean for your gold jewelry? Does a 925 hallmark mean that your precious bauble is 92.5 percent pure gold?
Unfortunately, it does not mean that you have a nearly solid gold piece of jewelry in your possession, As mentioned before, solid gold is virtually never used in jewelry making, since it is such a soft metal it would inevitably lose its shape and fail to properly contain any gemstones for a length of time.
This process gives the jewelry piece the needed strength and structural integrity it needs to be able to withstand the test of time while remaining true to its original form – even after long periods of use.
If you are looking to purchase a piece that will hold up well and that will retain its original beauty for years to come, a piece that is 925 marked is a wonderful investment option.
Silver that is gold plated is called “gold vermeil.” Some people call pieces that are gold plated “costume jewelry.” In order to qualify as gold vermeil, the gold coating on the jewelry piece must usually contain at least 42 percent pure gold and have a minimal thickness of 2.5 microns.
What Kind of Gold Covers 925 Silver?
The actual purity and strength of your gold jewelry piece will vary widely, as there are several commonly used grades of gold worldwide.
Gold quality is measured in karats, a statistic that is often marked on jewelry using the letters “kt.” The higher the number, the purer the gold content. The lower the number, the more alloys have been mixed in with the gold.
This also means that the higher the karat count, the weaker the metal, and the lower the karat count, the stronger the jewelry piece will be.
The most common gold purity options include:
- 24kt – The purest form of gold available in jewelry, this means your gold is 99.9% pure; it is also the most expensive and most malleable of all the options listed here.
- 22kt – Virtually pure gold, this option is 91$ gold and 9% alloy
- 18kt – This gold level contains 75% pure gold and 25% alloy.
- 14kt – Containing 58% gold and 42% alloy, this is one of the strongest options available.
- 10kt – This option is 41.7% pure gold and 58.3% alloy, making it the least expensive and most durable of these karat options.
Learn More: 10K, 14K, 18K, and 24K Gold: Which to Choose?
Depending on what grade of gold covers your 925 silver jewelry, you can expect to see the value rise or fall greatly.
The purer the gold, the more expensive the piece. Conversely, the lower the karat score, the more affordable – and strong – the jewelry piece will be.
What if Your Jewelry Is Unmarked?
This does not happen often. But, if you find yourself in possession of a jewelry piece with no visible markings, there are several tests that can tell you what gold purity your piece contains. Of the tests available, there are two that stand out:
The Touchstone Method
This method is fairly straightforward. It consists of scratching a small amount of gold along a stone and then using varying acids on the gold residue to evaluate the breakdown point of the gold.
Depending on what level of acid it takes to dissolve the gold, experts can then determine what karat level the gold is ranked as.
The XRAY Fluorescence Method
This is probably the quickest and most accurate method of determining an unmarked gold jewelry piece’s karat level.
XRAY technology analyzes the gold, testing for both impurities and thickness. It takes mere seconds for experts to evaluate a gold piece using this technology.
Whether your gold jewelry is 24kt or 18kt, you now know that if it also bears the 925 hallmark it is covering a silver base that gives it durability and strength.
While not pure gold, these pieces are often still valuable. Thay also have the added benefit of longevity without sacrificing structural integrity or luster.