The research of jewellery maker’s marks is an enchanting topic, steeped in historical past, tradition, and artwork. Usually ignored resulting from their deliberately hidden location and diminutive measurement, the etchings discovered inscribed on a chunk of recent or classic jewellery supply a window into the “who, what, and where” of the piece – and are nicely value a critical look.
From up to date items to vintage jewellery, letter markings on gold jewellery, silver, and different metals can supply helpful perception on the supplies, epoch, and producer of a chunk. Silver and gold jewellery markings are generally referred to as purity marks, maker’s marks, symbols, or date letters.
This jewellery hallmarks information may help clarify what these tiny etchings really imply – and the way to make sure you’re shopping for the true factor.
Jewellery Maker’s Marks: A Transient Historical past
To be thought of an vintage, a chunk of jewellery should be 100 years or older, whereas classic jewellery should be greater than 20 years outdated to be labeled as such. “Retro” jewellery refers to items made through the Forties and ‘50s and are characterised by way of giant and colourful gems.
In the USA, the Nationwide Gold and Silver Stamping Act of 1906 required jewelers to incorporate an correct purity mark, which signifies the supplies utilized in a given piece. In 1961, the American authorities additionally mandated that jewellery producers embrace a maker’s mark, which signifies the producer of a chunk of jewellery.
Hallmarking in Nice Britain has had a protracted historical past, courting again to the 14th century. As we speak’s requirements are regulated by the Hallmarking Act of 1973. Any piece of British jewellery made previous to 1999 was required to incorporate what is called a date letter stamp, a letter akin to the yr that it was registered with the assay workplace. Assay places of work are official governmental institutions who’re tasked to assay, or take a look at, the purity of jewellery metals and in some instances, to hallmark the jewellery.
Jewellery marks in France date again even earlier, with identified examples first seen within the thirteenth century. An essential yr to know should you’re gathering French vintage jewellery is the yr 1797, when it was required to have a maker’s mark framed inside a lozenge, a diamond-shaped cost that’s usually positioned on the sphere of a protect.
Widespread Jewellery Marks
Gold Purity Marks
Purity marks on gold jewellery will encompass a two-digit quantity adopted by the letter “k,” or a three-digit quantity. The letter “k” refers to karats, the place pure gold consists of 24 karats (24k). A chunk of jewellery with an etching that reads “18k” or “750” signifies that it’s made up of 75 p.c gold, whereas a “14k” or “585” mark signifies the steel is constructed with 58.5 p.c gold.
Jewellery engraved with HGE (Heavy Gold Electroplate), GE (Gold Electroplate), or GF (Gold Crammed) could look like product of gold, however it’s really normal from different supplies akin to copper and accommodates solely a really small quantity of gold.
Silver Purity Marks
Silver purity marks additionally specify steel content material (for reference, sterling silver is 92.5 p.c pure silver). Due to this fact, for sterling silver, search for marks that embrace “925,” “STERLING,” “STG,” or “STER.” Maintain an eye fixed out for metals which can be etched with “German Silver” or “Nickel Silver.” These items will not be made up of any silver in any respect, however are literally composed of copper, nickel, and zinc. If jewellery is marked with “Vermeil,” it’s a piece of sterling silver topped off with gold plating.
When contemplating platinum jewellery, the purity mark “950” denotes a composition of 95 p.c platinum with a mixture of different steel alloys, whereas “900” is made up of 90 p.c platinum, and “850” has 85 p.c platinum.
Maker’s marks could embrace logos, logos, firm names, and designer signatures to specify who made the jewellery. Iconic jewellery maker Tiffany & Co., for instance, has featured a number of maker’s marks all through their 179-year historical past, together with “Tiffany & Co.” and “T & Co.” Particular version Tiffany & Co. jewellery collections created by designers Frank Gehry, Paloma Picasso, Jean Schlumberger, and Elsa Peretti additionally bear their respective designers’ signatures.
With vintage and classic items, French jeweler and watchmaker Cartier adhered to a number of tips set forth by the French authorities. Fashionable Cartier jewellery is at all times engraved with the Cartier brand, together with a serial quantity distinctive to every particular person piece.
Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery will even embrace a serial quantity accompanying the model trademark. Relying on the period of the piece, the maker’s mark both reads “Van Cleef & Arpels” or the letters “VCA.”
Different Symbols Stamped on Jewellery
Apart from purity and maker’s marks, some jewellery will even bear symbols and letters, notably hallmarks, inscribed on it. Many of those symbols and letters discovered on jewellery originate from assay places of work.
Jewellery from the UK accommodates a sequence of obligatory and non-compulsory jewellery marks set out by the international locations’ assay places of work. One of many obligatory marks is the Assay Workplace Mark, an emblem which signifies the regional workplace that hallmarked the merchandise. Assay Workplace Mark symbols embrace an anchor that signifies Birmingham, a citadel for Edinburgh, a leopard’s head for London, and a rose for Sheffield.
“International, particularly European, jewelry typically has hallmarks, while American jewelry is usually stamped 14k or 18k,” says Virginia Salem, head of the jewellery and watches division at Freeman’s. “Hallmarks tell the story of the piece, and usually what country the item came from, as well as the artist and date made.”
The date letter stamp, a requirement for British jewellery till 1999, is helpful to know if it’s worthwhile to date a chunk of classic or retro jewellery. Silver items imprinted with a lion denotes 92.5 p.c silver — thus sterling silver — whereas the Britannia mark signifies that it has 95.8 p.c pure silver.
Beginning in 1838, an eagle’s head stamped on a chunk of gold jewellery indicated that the jewellery was from France and that it had a minimal of 18k gold. Moreover, a boar’s head was the mark of the Paris assay workplace, whereas places of work exterior the capital metropolis used a crab emblem.
Ideas for Avoiding Counterfeit Jewellery
Since gold, silver, and branded jewellery are extremely sought-after, encountering pretend jewellery is at all times a danger that collectors want to remember. Should you’re buying jewellery on-line, at all times ask for clear photos of the jewellery marks from the vendor to make sure the authenticity of a chunk.
Public sale homes and jewellery sellers particularly are essential sources for studying extra about jewellery maker’s marks. Previous to bidding on-line or in-person, you possibly can request extra data from jewellery specialists ought to you’ve got any questions or issues. When bidding at public sale on Invaluable, for instance, a simple approach to hook up with specialists is to make use of the “Request more information” button positioned on the product web page. The identical choice exists should you’re contemplating a purchase order from an Invaluable supplier or gallery.
One of the best ways to safeguard towards shopping for imitation jewellery is to familiarize your self with a very powerful jewellery marks and signature hallmarks of particular manufacturers. Whereas there are numerous jewellery marks to know, extra sources for collectors embrace the Birmingham Assay Workplace. Salem provides that Lang Jewellery College, which is nicely documented and covers a variety of property jewellery, can also be a superb reference information for additional element about particular markings.
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