Gold is a rare yellow mineral, a precious metal, used to create timeless jewelry. At Modaya, we believe gold is also considered an expression of love for this reason. You may or may not have heard the term “plumb gold” before, which is a technical term used in the jewelry industry. It is important to those who collect or sell jewelry, since “plumb gold” is used to describe jewelry that contains the precise amount of gold in the alloy that the Karat mark indicates. If you come across a piece of gold jewelry at an antique shop, pawn shop, or a yard sale with a “P” following the Karat mark, don’t assume that the “P” stands for plated – it doesn’t! The “P” actually stands for plumb gold jewelry, whereas plated gold is typically marked “HEG” for heavy gold electroplate.

Pure 24 Karat gold is generally too soft to be used for jewelry, so other metals are nearly always added to it, no matter which color of gold is being prepped for jewelry making.

The designations 18K, 14K, or 10K indicate how much pure gold is present in the mix. The K stands for karat, the system used to state how much pure gold is found in an item:

  • 24K gold is pure gold.
  • 18K gold contains 18 parts gold and 6 parts of another metal(s), making it 75%gold.
  • 14K gold contains 14 parts gold and 10 parts of another metal(s), making it58.3% gold.
  • 10K gold contains 10 parts gold and 14 parts another metal(s), making it 41.7%gold.

The Karat amount refers to the purity of the gold, while plumb gold is guaranteed to have a gold purity no less than indicated on the item, but could possibly be slightly more pure. For example, a necklace or bracelet stamped with a 14K plumb gold value (14KP) is guaranteed to contain 58.33% gold or more. Another necklace or bracelet stamped 600KP is guaranteed to contain 60% pure gold or more. Prior to 1981, manufacturers of fine jewelry could sell 13.5K gold as 14K gold, essentially rounding the Karat amount up to a greater value. In 1981, the National Gold and Silver Marking Act was passed in the United States, which prohibited rounding any karat value upward. Gold jewelry was then required to be 14K at minimum before it could be actually stamped “14K.” 10K indicates 10.0K gold, or more, 12K indicates 12.0K gold or more, 14K indicates 14.0K gold or more. Gold plumb indicators were designed to eliminate the more lenient measurement range that the gold jewelry market once allowed for. MODAYA is committed to selling 14k solid gold.

History of Plumb Gold

As mentioned earlier, the definition “plumb gold” became a known term in 1981. Prior to that year, the true karat value of gold jewelry could be advertised up to one karat more than what was indicated on the karat label. United States law has since mandated much tighter policies around gold labeling, so there is no longer a need for the plumb gold value mark.

What if you have gold jewelry with no markings at all? In 1906, Congress passed a law requiring jewelry to be properly stamped. Prior to that year, there were no U.S. requirements for gold marking. If a piece of jewelry has no stamp, and looks Victorian, it was likely made before 1906!

What Does Plum Gold Mean for the Consumer

In the United States, gold can be sold at up to 0.5 karat more than its actual gold content. Did you know that a necklace marked 14k gold may contain just 13.5 karats of gold? As a consumer, you’re better off purchasing gold jewelry stamped with 14K plumb gold (14KP) than a piece of 14k gold jewelry stamped with only 14K. If a piece of jewelry is not stamped with “14KP,” it may be more accurate to subtract up to half a karat from the advertised label, especially if your gold is manufactured in the U.S.

Plumb Gold vs. Gold Filled vs. Gold Plated. What’s the Difference?

  • 14K plumb gold means that the piece of jewelry contains at least 14.0 karats of gold.
  • Plated gold is typically marked “HEG” for heavy gold electroplate.
  • While solid gold jewelry holds the highest value, gold filled is better than gold plated.
  • Gold filled means a thin layer of gold has been rolled with a base metal, such as Silver or Brass, and the two are then bonded together.
  • Gold plating is when a few, thin molecules of gold are electrostatically attracted to the base metal.
  • Gold plated jewelry contains a lot less gold than gold filled, and far less than 14K solid gold jewelry.

At MODAYA, when we say handmade solid gold, we mean it. From drawing sketches, creating molds, melting precious metals, and final assembly, each and every piece of MODAYA jewelry released is conceptualized and designed in the heart of Los Angeles. Shop 14k, ethically sourced, solid gold jewelry at modaya.com.