Identifying Jewellery

Buying from a reputable Jeweller is the safest way to ensure that your Jewellery puchase is what it purports to be, however especially  when buying Vintage and Antique Jewellery it can be interesting and fulfilling to investigate the origins of your piece.

To aid you in your investigations we would recommend buying a book on Hallmarks and Makers marks, there are some that feature both Gold and Silver Marks and others which specialise in one or the other. There are also books that give you the history behind the development of gold and silver jewellery their regulation and marks.

You will also need to see the marks on your jewellery, and in order to do this you will need a Jewellers Loupe. A Loupe is a specialised magnifying glass that will allow you to see Hallmarks, Makers Marks and any other marks which will help to identify the origins of the piece. The Loupes come in various magnifications from 10x through 20x, 30x and up to 40x, be wary of a single lens which are usually of poor quality and will distort the object and may even add flashes of colour. Good loupes have triple lenses and x10 is a strong enough magnification for most purposes, and is the type of loupe used by professionals to grade Gemstones, although we would stress that it takes a considerable amount of training and informed use of instruments to be able to grade Gemstones and to be able to fully identify them.

Here are a few basic, simple pointers for you to get you going:

BRITISH GOLD

Middle ages - 1853  Two gold standards - 18carat and 22carat 

1854-1973 - Lower carat values of 9 (.375), 12 (.5) and 15 (.625) were introduced

1934           - The 12 and 15 carat golds were no longer made and were superceeded by 14 carat (.585)

BRITISH SILVER

There were two standards Britannia (.958), and Sterling (.925) 

Britannia silver carries the Britannia mark and Sterling silver  the lion passant in England and a thistle in Scotland.

Why "Hallmark"? Well the Hall is where the item was tested, andremember a Hallmark has three elements to it 1) The Hall or Assay Office 2) The purity assay which states that the item is at least the purity stated 3) Sponsors mark, which is whoever presented the item for assay.

 Probably most of the Antique jewellery that we see today comes from the Victorian period, and up to the 1970s for our Vintage jewellery, the Hallmarks from these periods can be complicated and we may find that some are partially missing due to wear or repairs, especially ring re-sizing that may even take out the Hallmark altogether although the skillful Jeweller will avoid disturbing the Hallmark if at all possible.

Note that there are exemptions for hallmarking: Gold items weighing less than 1 gram, Silver articles weighing less than 7.78 grams and Platinum articles weighing less than 0.5 grams are all exempt from the need to Hallmark.

Books that we recommend "Jackson's Hallmarks: English, Scottish, Irish Silver and Goldmarks 1300 to the Present Day" by Ian Pickford, this is a really comprehensive and useful guide. Alternatively for a truly pocket sized quick reference guide for Silver only try "English Silver Hallmarks (Dealers Guides) by Judith Banister. A real luxury choice and beautiful book is "Bradbury's Book of Hallmarks: A guide to Marks of Original English, Scottish and Irish Silver, Gold and Platinum and foreign Imported Silver and Gold Plate 1544 to 2010" by Frederick Bradbury

Jewellers Loupes that we recommend

Enjoy your Jewellery hunting with your book and Loupe.