British Vintage Jewellery hallmarks from (1850s- 1970s)By
Most of the vintage and antique Jewellery we see today dates between the Victorian era and the 1970s so these are the most important hallmarks to be able to read when looking at vintage jewellery. The hallmarks during this time are complicated , changed several times and often the jewellery has been worn and the hallmarks have become faint so they may be difficult to read. These hallmarks are for silver and gold only as Platinum was not often hallmarked during this time. You can find the date letters, town marks and makers marks as well as the metal purity as part of the hallmarks of this time.
If you want me to read hallmarks for you then please upload a very clear photo to AntiquesAvenue’s Facebook page – you will see a link on the left hand side of this blog. The photo must be readable like the one I have taken below. You will probably need to put your camera onto a macro setting and a snap from a mobile phone will not be good enough.
GOLD (1854 to 1973):
- From the Middle ages until 1853 there were only two standards of gold hallmarked – 18 and 22 carat
- In 1854 the lower carats of 9 (.375), 12 (.5) and 15 (.625) were introduced
- Between 1854 and 1974 articles made of the lower carats were marked with their carat mark and value eg 9 .375
- 18 and 22 carat golds would have the carat mark and a crown hallmark in England and a Thistle in Scotland
- In 1932 the 12 and 15 carat golds were replaced by 14 carat (.585)
Silver (Victorian times to 1973)
- There were just two standards of British silver Britannia silver (.958) and Sterling silver ( .925) with sterling being by far the most common and that used for most jewellery and silver objects we see.
- Britannia silver is denoted by the Britannia mark ( a lady on a throne ) and things made of Britannia silver may be considered of higher value all other things being equal.
- Sterling silver is hallmarked by the lion passant (England) and a Thistle ( Scotland)
- The Lion passant is a standing lion which you see from the side.
There are all sorts of additional hallmarks and markings you can find on a piece of jewellery – Monarchs heads and special event commemorative marks for example. By the way if you see fine scratches in markings these are not hallmarks but identification marks made by various jewellers and pawnbrokers over the years.
If you find a piece of antique jewellery without hallmarks it may still be made of gold or silver but to be certain you need to get the metal tested and this is a skilled process which takes time to learn and care to carry out accurately.
The law changed in 1973 and is become quite a bit stricter and more uniform.