Antique Jewelry Hallmarks

victorian ring

There are hallmarks for where the piece was created, the person or company who made the item, and the creation year. Here you see the tiny hallmarks on a Victorian era ring.

The provenance behind any piece of antique jewelry is one of the reasons why antique jewelry is so appealing.  The styles, the cuts, the stone, and the history behind every aspect of antique jewelry are not only interesting for the individual piece, but also give fascinating insight into the history of society.  A jewelry hallmark can actually reveal all sorts of details about a piece of jewelry and the time period in which it was made.

watch hallmark

These hallmarks can be seen on the back of a watch.

Where are the hallmarks on antique jewelry?

First, it is important to note what kind of hallmarks to look out for. There are hallmarks for where the piece was created, the person or company who made the item, and the creation year. However, it is quite common to fail to find any of these hallmarks on a piece of antique jewelry. Hallmarking jewelry did not become compulsory until 1975, therefore, it isn’t surprising that many pieces were crafted without being hallmarked. As mentioned, it was 1975 by the time European regulations were created in order to have the same standards in all European countries for gemstones and precious metals. Prior to 1975, countries had varying systems and standards for silver, gold and gemstones. This inconsistency resulted in some items being of an inferior quality, which in turn created great difficulty for the customer when purchasing pieces abroad.

bracelet hallmarks

Hallmarks seen on a bracelet.

Often antique jewelry is incredibly fine and delicate, such that there was regularly nowhere to fit any form of hallmark. It certainly wasn’t a priority of the jeweler to leave space for hallmarks, especially if it would be to the detriment of the style of the piece and particularly because it wasn’t compulsory at that time.  

hallmarks reverse brooch

Often antique jewelry is incredibly fine and delicate, such that there was regularly nowhere to fit any form of hallmark. Sometimes the hallmark is difficult to find as on this brooch.

With regards to antique rings, often the interior hallmarks simply became too worn to decipher. Therefore, on some items there may be dates, origins or maker’s marks, however they are too illegible to interpret. Or in other cases, again this is common with antique rings, an item may have been resized. Sadly, this can result in the hallmarks being lost with the metal that is removed.

It was quite common that antique jewelry could be crafted on a smaller scale, by artisan craftsmen, and in these cases, often the craftsmen did not have access to the equipment necessary for hallmarking.  If they did have the equipment, hallmarking incurred extra costs and it was sometimes considered a risk to the craftsmen as it opened the opportunity for theft or damage. Consequently, without forced regulation, stamping and hallmarking was only a priority to those brands or companies who made especially stunning pieces such as Liberty of London or Cartier.

pendant hallmark

A pendant hallmark.

So how do we know the age of a piece without hallmarks?

Without hallmarks, it may seem difficult to identify the age of a piece. However, experts are able to determine the age of an item by examining the style of it.  Style is the most apparent and obvious hint as to the age of any piece of jewelry. When it comes to gemstones, you are able to date them by examining the setting and the cut. Specific cuts and styles of setting are typical of particular periods. Thus, style, setting, and cuts can be wonderful indicators in the absence of any stamping and hallmarking.

earrings hallmark

Hallmarks on earring backings.


Rachel Atkinson is a Digital Assistant at AC Silver; specializing in in fine antique jewelry and silverware.  Her BA in philosophy and passion for rare antiquities and history, produces copy with a more intriguing literary leaning. 
You can observe her musings on a variety of topics at AC Silver.
 
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