When buying second hand or vintage designer jewellery the most common concern is knowing that you haven't been scammed or purchased a fake.
At Xupes we pride ourselves on our authentication and discovering the story behind each piece of jewellery. The marking on jewellery can tell us if we've found a really good fake or if a jewel is the real deal. The marks on jewellery that tell us the composition and brand stamp are called hallmarks and examining these is the best way to verify any jewellery's story.
There are several different types of hallmarks, and these adhere to each country's hallmarking laws. The most common hallmark is the metal mark which tells us what metal the jewellery is made from and it's purity. More people are familiar with the 925 stamp which means that the silver is sterling silver as the silver purity is 92.5% silver and the remaining 7.5% is a mixture of alloys.
The metal hallmark is a legal requirement for selling precious metals in the UK and is standardised between all metals. For example, any jewellery hallmarked in the UK with 750 is 18K solid gold. In other countries, such as the USA, the stamp is written as 18K rather than as 750.
Every major jewellery house also marks their jewellery with their logo or their 'sponsor mark'. Logos are not a legal requirement, they can be in a fancy font, sometimes they are the actual logo of the brand. The sponsor's mark is slightly different from the logo. The sponsor mark is typically 1, or 2 initials stamped on to the jewellery. The fonts can be varied so that several jewellers can use the same letters, but then each mark will still be unique and registered to a specific jeweller.
We can see a beautiful example of the sponsor mark on this pre-owned platinum Tiffany & Co ring. There is the Tiffany & Co logo etched on the inside of the ring band, but when you look closer at the hallmarks, you can see a T&C mark which is the sponsor's mark. The second stamp is actually the symbol of an orb which is a traditional platinum purity symbol. The orb is an optional hallmark but showcases the high level of purity of the platinum which is 95% and above. We can also tell this ring is 95% platinum from the 950 mark which is the third mark on the inside band.
There are still two more hallmarks on this Tiffany half eternity ring; the 4th symbol along is the head of a lion. This symbol tells us that the ring was hallmarked by the London Assay Office. There are different symbols for each Assay company in the UK, an anchor for Birmingham; a white rose for Sheffield and a castle for Edinburgh. When a piece of jewellery has an Assay office mark, it's possible to get in touch with them to find out more about the piece as they will have record confirming that Tiffany sent this ring to be hallmarked and when it was stamped.
An Assay hallmark is a guarantee of authenticity as they are independent of the jeweller who made it. The final hallmark on this Tiffany ring is the date stamp. The date stamp used by the assay office is updated annually so that each piece of jewellery can be identified with a specific year. It is not just the letter that marks the year an item was stamped, but also the font is significant. This ring is stamped with a lower-case g and in a san serif font which dates it to 2006. The last time a 'g' was used as a hallmark date was 1981.
On this Cartier Nigeria ring, there is a hallmark of an eagle’s head which tells us that this ring was made in France and is made of gold. The 750 stands for 18k solid gold and the six-digit number is the unique serial code to that ring. However, there are other marks on this ring, the “52” is the EU ring size of the Nigeria ring.
When you look carefully at this 18K white gold pre-loved Boodles necklace, you'll see the hallmarks are delicately stamped on a link and also on the necklace clasp. You will see the B and D on the link (which actually stands for Boodles & Dunthorne) to denote the marker is Boodles, plus the 750 hallmark to confirm that the necklace is 18k solid gold. Just like the Tiffany eternity ring this necklace is also stamped with a date stamp. This time it's a lowercase 'a' in a sans serif font to show that the piece was made in 2000.
Major jewellery houses regularly update their hallmarks; this helps them identify copies of their work and can also be a useful tool when dating a piece of jewellery. There are also other ways to tell if an item is a fake using the hallmarks. A genuine piece of second-hand designer jewellery will be stamped with all the hallmarks – including a serial number, the logo and a metal mark.
On genuine designer jewellery, all hallmarks are perfectly embossed even on antique pieces. The hallmarks are not bleeding, scratched or misaligned. If any hallmark is unclear, misspelt or challenging to read, then you are probably looking at an imitation. At Xupes we verify all our hallmarks so that you have peace of mind when buying beautiful pre-owned jewellery.
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