Introduction to Antique Jewelry Hallmarks

A hallmark is an official mark or series of marks struck on items made of metal, mostly to certify the content of noble metals—such as Platinum, Gold and Silver

An introduction to Antique Jewelry Hallmarks  on Antique Gold Jewelry is essential reading  for any Investing in fine Jewelry fun-journey. 

Identifying marks  on Jewelry is challenging, for novice and expert alike, and that's the  reason I  started the Hallmark Challenge for those elite group of Hallmark- Holmes Experts out there who like a dare. 

 If British Hallmarks is your area of interest, be sure to read (and bookmark) the Guide to Hallmarking in Great Britain...

For information on Investing in Antique Jewelry, Antique Jewelry Buying Basics will guide you through the elemental steps. How to safely Invest Money in Jewelry? Info on How To Invest Money in Jewelry Can Be Found Here... Then there are identification tips on how to identify Antique Gold Jewelry  Found Here...

Unless you've been living under a rock,  you're either aware of or have been affected by the value of the dollar.  More and more people are investing in gold and silver as a safe haven these days. Doomer porn or prudent preparation? You decide.

There Are Three Basic Ways to Buy Gold Today That Investors Need To Know...

The two questions I'm asked  most on Antique Jewelry Investor are about Antique Jewelry Hallmarks and what's the value?

First tip - A magnifying glass or Jewelry loupe is Vital to see the marking/s. This essential little tool makes a hallmark determination much easier and you will have a much better chance of success.

There are literally thousands upon thousands of different marks on jewelry from countries all over the world!

Today, when people talk about hallmarks, they could be referring to just about anything... from the Jewelry marks used to identify who made the piece, to the purity mark, the guarantee that the metal was made from high-quality metal to town marks, tax marks, country marks, etc. etc.

Strictly speaking, a Hallmark refers to the metal content, it's the caratage or gold purity which may be in the form of the millesimal fineness, like "750" which may follow or proceed pictures, letters, numbers, stamps, initials, engravings.

Not surprisingly, investors who buy physical gold Jewelry are often unsure if all these Jewelry marks are really that important. Are British Hallmarks (UKHM) really the best in the world? British Hallmarks like Antique Jewelry has stood the test of time, and are trustworthy.

Hallmarking was originally introduced in 1300 in Great Britain by a Statute of Edward I and is one of the earliest forms of consumer protection.

Other countries, besides Great Britain, have Antique Jewelry Hallmarks. Around the former colonies of the British Empire, these marks are not seen so often.

And then we have Antique French Jewelry bearing French Hallmarks. During the Louis era, the ram's head was in use in France from 1819 to 1838, when it was the Georgian era back in Britain.

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No Antique Jewelry Hallmark?

Very early pieces  will not have any Antique Jewelry Hallmarks because hallmarking in the US only became a legal requirement in 1906.

In the world of Antique Jewelry, important Jewelry may NOT be marked.

For example, the Persian diadem, the ancestor of the tiara, was discovered made of brass metal, sometime between the 17th - 18th centuries, and surprise, it sold at auction for 6,250 GBP.

Hand made Antique Indian Jewelry and old Ethnic Jewelry from the Arabian peninsula, are examples of premier Antique Jewelry bearing no such Jewelry hallmarks.

The point being, providing the Jewelry is authentic, early examples  can be very valuable although not  hallmarked. Indeed, some of the most unique and fascinating pieces of Jewelry have been handcrafted by the desert society who had either:

  1. no knowledge about Antique Jewelry Hallmarks. 
  2. the Jewelry pre-dates the hallmarking system. 
  3. didn't care less about hallmarks

This does not mean these unmarked pieces are not investment-worthy or valuable. In fact, the opposite is true. The uniqueness of the design and the rarity factor overrides the need for Jewelry markings.

A good question on the subject of gold Jewelry with no visible markings was recently submitted to Help Central from India, about how to date Antique Gold Jewelry from India Not hallmarked. Read what Gem Palace replied to the gold testing lab question Here.

British Jewelry with a full UKHM (United Kingdom Hall Mark) generally consists of the following marks:

  • The Maker’s Mark to identify the company or individual who made it.
  • The Origin Mark  shows where it was assayed - such as London, etc
  • The Assay Mark to indicate the ‘Guarantee of Quality’ often referred to as the          Caratage - (9ct - 22ct).
  • The Date Mark is based on the Alphabet which changed each year.
    And sometimes:
  • The Duty Mark to confirm ‘Tax’ had been paid.

UKHMs have been around a long time. Striking a mark on British gold, originated in 1327 when King Edward III of England granted a charter to the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths marking the beginning of the Company's formal existence.

Headquarters were at London's "Goldsmiths' Hall of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmith" and this is actually where the English term "Hallmark" was derived.

Antique Jewelry Hallmarks may well have been applied by a trusted party known as the 'Guardians of the Craft' back then, guaranteeing a certain purity or fineness of the metal, but unfortunately, that's not the case today.......

I Swear - Hallmarked Gold?

The guardians of the craft took their position seriously. Very seriously. Penalties for counterfeits were severe.

In 1397 a report was made on the false counterfeit stamps of two goldsmiths who were placed in the pillory at Westminster with their ears nailed to it and a ticket over their heads, on which their offenses were written. They each had one ear cut off. True!

Antique Jewelry Hallmarks include the Assay mark or quality mark that indicates the ‘Quality’ of the precious metal in the item. An assay office undertakes the job of testing all articles of silver, gold, and platinum, to ensure that they meet the minimum standard of purity.

For example, 9ct (.375) struck into yellow gold Jewelry which means there is  375 parts of gold out of 1000 parts of metal. The other 625 parts of metal is a mix of copper, silver, and zinc.

The second stamp is the 'origin mark' or 'assay office' mark or ‘Mark of Origin’. The origin mark, simply tells you where the item was assayed.

A Leopard Head is the most common and, yes, you guessed it! It's the mark of the LONDON Assay Office. Sometimes, the Leopard has a crown on his head (until 1821). The Leopard Head is the King's mark. Read about Edward The Lion King Here...

The other most common Assay Office marks are from Birmingham (an Anchor). Once there were many Assay offices around Great Britain and Ireland, the Chester mark for instance. There are only three offices left in England now.

Sheffield assay office, is the last, using a 'Rose' origin mark - the rose, has an age-old symbolic meaning in the History of Jewelry. Often, a "flower" motif in connection with Jewelry had symbolic meanings, for instance, the Rose of Sheffield.

In puritan society, people in love harnessed the language of flowers to weave  meanings into Jewelry. When words failed us, Jewelry of the past often played the role of cupid.

The sensuality of wedding rings is explained here...

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