Gold-Plated Jewelry Markings- How to Understand Them?

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Most of the affordable gold jewelry on the market is gold-plated jewelry.

Unfortunately, many of us still fall victim to the plated jewelry being passed off as authentic solid jewelry, which also means losing money on jewelry that will not last as long as the solid gold jewelry expected.

But this may be about to be a thing of the past thanks to the high number of jewelers and jewelry manufacturers opting to stamp the gold-plated jewelry. In the rest of this article, we’ll look at the standard markings used on gold-plated jewelry and how to interpret them.

But first, Is gold-plated jewelry stamped?

Yes, gold-plated jewelry by renowned jewelers is stamped. The jewelry is mainly stamped with unique initials that reveal the jewelry’s metal composition.

 

Gold jewelry or gold-plated jewelry marking laws or regulation

Gold-Plated Jewelry Markings

While it may seem like solid gold jewelry and other forms of jewelry made of precious stones are the only ones that get the highest levels of regulation and control, the truth is that even the gold-plated pieces are regulated just as much.

These regulations were put in place on October 1, 1981, under the revision in Section 295 of United States Code, Volume 15, which governs the marking of gold and silver.

This act is better known as the National Gold and Silver Marking Act. Although the law was first enacted early in 1906, the older laws didn’t require manufacturers to indicate the quality of the gold or silver used for the jewelry.

The initial laws only noted that if the quality of the jewelry was to be disclosed affirmatively, it had to be very accurate to one-half a karat in cases of jewelry that was not soldered and 1 karat for the soldered jewelry which needed to carry the disclosed mark. Violation of these rules would result in criminal sanctions.

The Act was then amended in 1961 to require more disclosures in the name of the jewelry or for the registered trademark of the firm responsible for the quality of the gold or silver for a guarantee of quality. This law would then be amended in the 70s, providing civil penalties through legal action.

Gold-Plated Jewelry Markings

These measures were not enough, though, and in the 70s, the fineness tolerance for all gold articles was tightened, with measures signed into law in 1976, taking effect in 1981 when section 295 was again revised to allow for further regulation of the standards for the precious metals, and also offering more stringent laws that specified gold proportions in the soldered and the unsoldered gold before they were marked to be good as gold.

So, from October 1ST, when the act was passed and stricter requirements applied, it became necessary to mark all gold, whether it contained at least 3/1000th parts unsoldered or 7/1000th parts for the soldered jewelry.

The new laws also required that the gold and silver jewelry carry the mark of quality and the brand’s registered trademark for the company that guarantees the quality of the jewelry.

Note, however, that there are no laws in the US that require marking of gold or silver’s quality. When you incorporate the quality mark, you must add a trademark – the latter assigns responsibility in case of fraudulent marks.

Gold-Plated Jewelry Markings

Also, the jewelry’s quality mark must be in the stated standard, specifying the gold to allow ratio in the stamp. The trademark confirms that the quality details are accurate and conform to the laws.

As much as the trademark helps determine the party responsible in case of trouble, any exaggeration or inaccurate details incorporated in the jewelry, in the absence of a trademark, will make the retailers and distributors responsible in case of fraudulent activity.

So, the trademark is essentially the assurance of the quality of the gold or silver, some permanent record that details the origin and ensures the assumption of responsibility for the jewelry.

And lastly, the markings used should be significant and positioned very close to the quality markings. The quality details must be accurate too.

 

What is the stamp for gold plated?

Gold-Plated Jewelry Markings

The standard stamp used for gold-plated jewelry is GP. So, you’d have 14GP or 18GP on the jewelry, depending on the quality of gold that coats the base metal like copper, brass, stainless steel, or sterling silver.

Other markings could be used as well, and these tell if the jewelry is gold plated or gold-filled. For the gold-plated jewelry pieces, the markings that are used include GP, GE, or HGE.

The GE and GP markings mean that the jewelry is electroplated using a very thin layer of gold. So, jewelry stamped 18K GP would translate to a piece of jewelry plated with 18K gold.

HGE is the other standard stamp seen on gold-plated jewelry. It represents a Heavy Gold Electroplate or a High-Grade Electroplate, which would mean that the piece of gold in question has a gold plating specifically made with a slightly thicker layer of gold than that on the GE or GP pieces.

However, the HGE jewelry pieces are not valuable because the gold content in these jewelry pieces is minimal.

 

Gold-Plated Jewelry making process

Gold-Plated Jewelry Markings

Electroplating and electropolishing are the two important steps in creating electroplated jewelry. These processes occur in the electrolytic cells that contain two electrodes connected via electric currents in an electrolyte.

So, the current passes through the cell. The metal in the electrolyte is dissolved and then deposited on the negative electrode, or cathode, and the metal in the positive electrode or Anode may be removed.

It’s deposited back in the electrolyte. So, the metal passes from the anode to be deposited at the cathode through the electrolyte.

Below is a step-by-step of how gold-plated jewelry is created.

Gold-Plated Jewelry Markings

  1. Surface preparation– to improve adherence of the gold and to keep the electroplating tanks free of any contaminants, the surface of the metal that needs to be plated gets a thorough cleaning, and all oils, dust, and dirt are removed. The surface preparation involves stripping, tumbling, sandblasting, polishing, etc., using abrasive materials, solvents, acid etches, alkaline cleaners, and water.
  2. Cleaning– After surface preparation, the metal is cleaned. Cleaning is often electro-cleaning, steaming, or ultrasonic cleaning. This will blast all the dirt and oils from the metal surface and in the nooks and crannies.
  3. Rinsing– Once thoroughly cleaned, it is rinsed thoroughly to remove cleaning agents.
  4. Strike layer application– This layer is also called the flash layer. During the application of this layer, a very thin layer of high-quality nickel-plating is applied to the base metal. This is an important step that enhances the bonding of the underlying metal surface with the plating metal. A buffer layer may be applied too, especially when the base metal used is copper, which is known to atomically migrate to the surface, creating tarnish spots on the plated gold. So, the strike layer prevents the reactive processes and the migration of the base metal to the plated metal, hence extending the life of the gold-plated pieces.
  5. Rinse– this is done once more to remove any remaining cleaning agents.
  6. Basecoat application– this is also nickel, and it is applied before the final coat of gold is applied.
  7. Final coating– in the last step, the gold layer is added. This final coating is applied under special conditions where the temperature and the voltage are controlled carefully as the prepared piece is submerged in the plating solution.
  8. Final rinse– this is done with water.
  9. Drying– the newly plated jewelry is then dried through hanging, and the pieces don’t touch each other.

 

Gold plated jewelry value

Gold-plated jewelry doesn’t hold much value because a very small amount of gold is applied, which cannot be quantified easily. If you want to read more in detail, this post is just for you: are gold plated jewelry worth anything!

Gold-Plated Jewelry Markings

How to identify gold plated jewelry

Look for markings like GP, Gold Plated, GEP, which means gold electroplated, RGP for rolled gold plate, OR HGE for heavy gold electroplate.

Gold-Plated Jewelry Markings

How to test for gold plated jewelry

The acid test is the most reliable test for gold-plated jewelry. Find the acid test kit online, then follow the steps to test the jewelry. Watch out for color changes in the gold jewelry.

Magnetic testing is also practical – gold-plated pieces are often magnetic and will not be attracted to the magnet, unlike 18k solid gold, which may have little or no magnetism.

 

Conclusion

If you are buying gold plated jewelry, look out for the incorporated markings to know what you’re buying. Read more information here or read our latest posts here! 

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