The stability of microstructure and of microchemistry in melt-spun precipitation-hardened Sm(Co,Fe,Cu,Zr)z magnets at high temperature and its effect on the magnetic properties, especially the coercivity at room temperature, were investigated by transmission electron microscopy, nanoprobe chemical analysis, and magnetic measurements. A very large gradient of the Cu content within the 1:5-type cell boundary phase was observed in highly coercive melt-spun Sm(Co,Fe,Cu,Zr)z magnets with uniform cellular structure. After an additional isothermal aging at 850 °C for 5 min, the coercivity is reduced dramatically from 3 T to 0.16 T. This is accompanied by the disappearance of the large gradient of Cu content within the cell boundary phase. Thus, it is proposed that the high coercivity in 2:17 Sm-Co magnets originates from the large gradient of domain wall energy within the Sm(Co,Cu)5 cell boundary phase. This gradient is caused by a very rapid phase separation taking place within the cell boundary phase during slow cooling. © 2003 American Institute of Physics.