Gold is a precious metal with a warm, glowing tone. It is a popular component in all types of jewelry. Some jewelry, however, may be gold filled rather than solid gold. Gold-filled jewelry consists of another type of metal coated in a layer of gold. There is a way to tell if your jewelry is gold filled or solid gold--solid gold jewelry is marked with one of several types of tiny hallmarks.
Examine your jewelry for karat quality markings. If it's pure, solid gold, it should be marked with either a “24K” or "999" symbol. Identify 22 karat solid gold by a mark that says “22K,” "916" or "917." This indicates that jewelry is 91.6 percent pure gold, or 22 parts pure gold out of 24. Look for "18K," "750" or "18KP" for 18 karat gold. For 14 karat jewelry, look for "14K," "585" or "14KP." Ten karat gold should be marked "10K," "417," "16" or "10KP."
Identify gold-filled articles by words or initials following the karat quality mark. A piece may be identified as gold filled, gold overlay, rolled gold or with abbreviations of those terms, such as "GF" for gold filled. Gold-filled jewelry may also be marked with fractional numbers around the karat quality mark. For example, "1/10 14K G.F." means that the piece is gold filled and that 1/10 of its weight is 14 karat gold.
Use common sense when buying gold jewelry. Because the price of gold is well known, any jewelry that does not have a karat quality marking and is for sale at a very low price is unlikely to be solid gold. But depending on the price and the visual appeal, a gold-filled piece may still be worth buying.
“Carat” is not the same as “karat,” which is often indicated by a “K” mark. Carat is a unit of weight for gemstones. Karat refers to the purity of gold. On solid gold jewelry, the “P” mark stands for “plumb.” Plumb is an old-fashioned term that means the purity level of the gold is precisely what is stamped on the label.