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Precious Metal Standards, Regulations & Marks

Gold Standards and Regulations

With gold used throughout the marketplace, standards and regulations help to regulate their sale and usage.

Gold Manufacture & Sale

Different countries have varying standards and regulations governing the manufacture and sale of gold jewelry. Countries differ in the type of marking system they use, allowable tolerances, and standards of fineness, among other things.

international gold standards
A breakdown of the acceptable standards for gold in different countries.

steel jewelry stamps
Steel jewelry stamps for marking karatage.

With so much variation, it is easy to see why international trade in gold jewelry can be hampered by the standards and regulations of individual countries. The Federal Trade Commission in the U.S. is responsible for interpreting and administering the laws that govern trade in gold objects. According to the FTC, no item with less than 10K gold content can be sold as “gold” in the U.S. This is different from Germany, where an item made of 8K gold can be sold as “gold,” and the U.K. where an item made of 9K gold can be sold as “gold.”

British gold stamp
Gold mark.

In the U.K., the quality of gold jewelry is tested at official assay offices where the purity of the gold is stamped on the object as part of the hallmark. The hallmark also includes the manufacturer’s mark, the national standard mark, the assay office mark and a date mark. Hallmarks are a guarantee of the quality of the object.

rose gold hallmark
A 9K gold object with British hallmarks.

In the U.S., on the other hand, jewelry is stamped with its fineness by the manufacturer, who must also include their trademark. Trademarks are registered with the government, so if underkarating  issues arise, the objects can be traced back to the manufacturer.

white gold band marks
A typical U.S. mark on a 14K gold piece.

Gold standards and regulation is a complex topic. A few years ago there was considerable international debate about what constituted “white gold.” The lack of an industry-accepted technical definition was made more problematic by the increased use of rhodium plating. Subsequent to industry discussion, guidelines for the technical definition of white gold were eventually produced. White gold was defined as having a yellowness index of 32.0 or less and three grades were proposed:

  • Premium white grade – comprising alloys with a good white color that do not need rhodium plating. (Yellowness index < 19.0)
  • Standard grade – alloys with a reasonable white color, rhodium plating is optional. (Yellowness index 19.0 – 24.5)
  • Off-white color grade – alloys that need to be rhodium plated.  (Yellowness index 24.5 – 32.0)

precious metal gold comparison
Left to right: 18K yellow gold; 18K white gold, rhodium plated; and18K palladium white gold, not plated.

Next, we will review the specific Platinum Standards and Regulations | Platinum Manufacture and Sale.

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