Your jewelry’s secrets that are in plain sight: hallmarks

The rings, pendants, and necklaces you love—and that have lovingly been handed down to you by mothers, grandmothers, and aunts—have a story to tell. But only if you know where to look for your jewelry’s secrets.

Turn over your gold, platinum, or silver jewelry (or even your family silverware and silver) and chances are, you’ll see a hallmark. Look for one or more letters, numbers, even a design. A hallmark is an official mark or series of marks struck on items made of precious metal. As one article notes, these marks are “a window into the “who, what, and where” of the object.”

The hallmark’s story

Every nation has its own system of identifying gold. English gold must be marked with one of the four assay offices throughout the country. In the U.S., a 1906 act required jewelers to include a mark that indicates the materials. In 1961, the government also mandated that jewelry manufacturers include a maker’s mark, which indicates the maker.


“Purity” marks tell you how much gold versus other types of metals are in your jewelry. They consist of a 2-digit number and the letter “k” (karat) or a 3-digit number.

  • 18k or “750”: 75% percent gold
  • 14k or “585”: 58.5 percent gold

Not-quite gold

These pieces may look like gold, but they’re actually made up of other metals, like copper, with only a small amount of gold.

  • HGE (Heavy Gold Electroplate)
  • GE (Gold Electroplate)
  • GF (Gold Filled)
  • Vermeil is sterling silver topped with gold plating.


Sterling silver, which is 92.5 percent pure silver, will have marks including “925,” “STERLING,” “STG,” or “STER.”

Not-quite silver

“German Silver” or “Nickel Silver” indicate pieces actually made of copper, nickel, and zinc.


  • “950”: 95% platinum with other metal alloys
  • “900”: 90% platinum
  • “850”: 85% platinum

Here’s an interesting article on hallmarks around the world if you want to know more.

Maker’s marks

Maker’s marks indicate who the designer and/or manufacturer of the jewelry is. It can include logos, trademarks, company names, and designer signatures. These can change after time as companies change their logos , which can help you or an appraiser date the jewelry.

Don’t be fooled

How do you protect yourself when you’re buying jewelry, say, at an antique or estate sale? Invest in a loupe and take a look at the markings. You can always take a photo of the mark and check it out on the web. And if you’re looking for a specific type of jewelry, like Tiffany, learn the various marks that the company has used over time.

The easiest way? Have a professional appraiser or jeweler put their expertise to work and do the research for you. Call me to set up an appointment to examine the fine jewelry, silverware, silver pieces, or watches that you’ve inherited or bought.

Brilliantly yours, Aimee





, , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply