What you need to know about jewelry hallmarks

Buying antique or vintage jewelry means first figuring out what it is, where and when it was made, and by whom. That’s why the first thing an experienced buyer will do is hold a piece up to a loupe and examine it for hallmarks. If jewelry has hallmarks and they appear authentic, identifying its value is a whole lot easier.

But many countries – including the U.S. – do not have an official hallmarking system and the hallmarks of one country can vary dramatically from another. How does a budding collector begin to unravel this puzzle?

A trusted dealer can help but if you want to learn to identify jewelry on your own, you’ll need a good guide. There are a few books on the market, but if you want the ultimate, illustrated reference book, be prepared to shell out a couple hundred bucks for World Hallmarks, Volume I: Europe, 19th to 21st Centuries, due out in its second printing this month. As co-author Danusia Niklewicz puts it, “This book will pay for itself with one correctly identified piece.”

I recently spoke to Niklewicz and William Whetstone, who compiled this tome with fellow appraiser Lindy Matula, about the basics of hallmark identification.

Is it common for people to confuse a maker’s mark with a hallmark?

Danusia Niklewicz: Yes, especially in the U.S. where we don’t hallmark goods. On our website people can send in questions about hallmarks and many times we receive maker’s marks instead of hallmarks. People think any maker’s mark is a hallmark and that becomes a problem. Maker’s marks aren’t nearly as well documented as hallmarks.

Many countries don’t offer lists of registered makers or their marks. Even in the U.S. and Canada, there is no requirement to register one’s mark. As a result, there is nowhere to research the identity of a signature or mark. You will only find hallmarks on jewelry made in countries that have laws that require independent testing of metal fineness and that document their makers marks with an official stamp – a government stamp or an independent lab stamp – indicating the results of such testing.

William Whetstone: In many places, especially Europe, it’s required that a maker register their mark at a hallmarking or assaying office so it can be tracked. In most European countries, a secondary system is set up where the assay office tests the pieces and puts their stamps on it to indicate that it was verified by an independent body. It’s similar to gem certification. Most people buying an expensive diamond today want a certificate issued by an independent organization like the GIA. Just like these certified diamonds that are laser-inscribed on the girdle of the diamond with the cert number, a hallmarked item is marked with the results of the testing.


Russian hallmark and maker’s mark

So what kind of assurance am I getting with a maker’s mark?

Whetstone: A maker’s mark can be the manufacturer, the company that sponsored the piece to be made, or the individual craftsman. In any case, whoever is marked on the piece takes the responsibility for it. In countries where they don’t even mark their pieces, the importer becomes the responsible party. Really, a hallmark is about the most important means of consumer protection within the precious metals. In other words, if you’re a maker and you stamp something 18kt, you take responsibility. You’re guaranteeing that it’s 18kt.

Niklewicz: In most European countries, including France and Great Britain, an item is not legal for sale without a hallmark. Germany doesn’t have hallmarking, but it’s the exception. A few countries, like Austria and Norway, have optional hallmarking. Italy doesn’t require hallmarking but it has better registration of the maker, a specific number, so what you see as an Italian mark was placed there by the maker. It’s a little more formal than any other maker’s voluntary marking.


Italian maker’s mark

Does that mean I’m safe buying jewelry made in Italy?

Whetstone: Not necessarily. I think it’s easy to recognize Italian marks but you don’t have the same protection or guarantee unless an item is hallmarked. There was a notoriously famous chain that marked their jewelry 18kt on one side and “Italy” on the other. “Italy” is not a guarantee. So you find the 18kt gold chain you bought is only 14kt gold. Who do you hold responsible? The merchant you bought it from can say, “It’s not my fault. It doesn’t have my trademark on it.” This goes on all the time. Under-karating is rampant in North America.

It’s caveat emptor here?

Whetstone: We were talking to assay masters at a conference in Geneva and they privately say they laugh at the consumer protection system within the U.S. because there is no policing of this.

Niklewicz: The U.S. is missing out on a huge European market because we don’t have the standards they demand. They consider our products generally inferior.

Whetstone: Tiffany & Co. sends jewelry to London to have it hallmarked so they can sell it on the European market. Most jewelry makers don’t realize how fast and inexpensive it is to have jewelry hallmarked now, given modern technology. If you’re selling something for $1,000 or more and it only costs $10 to get it hallmarked, that’s a worthwhile investment. You can also get volume discounts.


French maker’s mark

What can I learn from hallmarks if I’m collecting estate or antique jewelry made in France or other parts of Europe?

Whetstone: In some countries, hallmarks can tell you what city and what year a piece was made. At the very least, they allow you to figure out the country of origin and that’s really important. Somebody recently sent me a picture of an Art Deco piece they thought was French. It wasn’t. It was Egyptian. It was extremely well made. There were a lot of talented craftsmen in Egypt during 1920s who came from France and England and were doing very fine work. But this person thought the piece came from France. Does it make a difference in value if a piece is French Art Deco instead of Eyptian Art Deco? Yes, a big difference.

Does understanding hallmarks mean I can buy antique jewelry on eBay – or is it best to avoid that?

Whetstone: eBay is a viable market, providing you’ve done your research to make sure what you’re looking at is correct. I buy on eBay. One problem with buying on eBay is that I consistently see stuff that is just wrong. I informed a seller recently that something advertised as “made in the 1700s” was actually made in the 1930s in Czechoslovakia. In many cases, mistakes like that are innocent and they thank me and take it down. But that is why you have to read and do your homework before buying.

Want to learn more about evaluating old jewelry? Check out Bill and Danusia’s site, Hallmark Research Institute.

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138 comments for “What you need to know about jewelry hallmarks

  1. April 3, 2013 at 11:38 am

    Hello k,

    There are three recognized methods currently used in the stamping of fineness on precious metals. The first and most globally used method of marking fineness on precious metals is the Millesimal System where pure metal fineness is defined as the whole number 1000. As the precious metal purity is diluted with alloys, the amount of precious metal is reduced, as is the 1000 number to reflect the remaining portion of precious metal. For example, the most common silver fineness recognized is the sterling standard of 925. This translates to 925/1000 or 925 parts of 1000 is silver. What is a common fineness for gold is 750, or 750/1000, 585 is 585/1000, etc. This method is used for all precious metals.
    An alternate method used only to define gold fineness is the karat system, where the 1000 purity is defined as 24 karat. The 750 fineness, that is actually 3/4 gold to alloy, would be in the karat system translated as 18 karat. A 585 fineness would be 14k, and so on.
    The final system that is currently in use refers to a simple standard number. In countries that have hallmarking laws, often the number used within the mark is a simple count of the number of the standard. In the hallmark which is very small without much room to put a full 3 digit fineness, a single digit standard number fits nicely. To understand the number within the hallmark, the country would first have to be identified, then the determination what are that country’s legal purity standards. The highest standard would be assigned 1, the next standard would be 2, and so on down the line. For example, if a country has three legal standards for gold like 10k, 14k, and 18k, the 18k would be identified as a 1 in the hallmark. The 14k would be 2, the 10k would be 3. This method is used for all precious metals.

    Hope that helps!

  2. Cheryl Havens
    October 13, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    I have a ring marked 14K IK then a circle? It is a beautiful ring. How do I find out who made this ring?

  3. October 16, 2013 at 1:34 am

    Hi Cheryl,
    It is not apparent but you have asked what numerous people have asked before but the comments have been so extensive that they were archived under the “older comments” above. Many people want to find the maker of their jewelry and only have a couple of letters or a symbol to go on with items that are sold in the USA. Since there are no hallmarking and limited responsibility mark (maker’s mark) requirements here, there is very little need for a maker to go through the expense of registering their mark as a trademark, thus no single registry other than the US Trademark and Patent Office.
    To help you find what we have been telling those seeking their maker’s marks, the following is an extracted section of text from one of the questions similar to yours. You can read more if you click the link that follows…

    “You can check the Art Guide Source – Bob Mitchell started a registry where contemporary designers can list their trademarks for brand recognition. You can start there.
    Heritage Auctions – Heritage Auctions began documenting the marks on items (mostly silver) that have passed through their galleries for years. They have put the vast collection on line in a search engine that is quite useful.
    AppraisersUnderOath.com has the only jewelry trademark search engine that pulled its data from the US Patent & Trademark Office. It is fee based and a bit hard to navigate through.
    WorthPoint.com boasts a mark’s database that we have not reviewed yet. It is also fee based.
    So as you can see, there are resources to search through but in simple answer to your question, no there is no single place to go to see gold maker’s marks.
    Good luck in your searching!”

    Hallmark Research Institute
    – See more at: http://thejewelryloupe.com/jewelry-hallmarks-ultimate-consumer-protection/comment-page-1/#comments

  4. camille
    November 4, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    I have a bracelet with a R and half moon under the left side of the R can you tell me who this is?

  5. Lucy
    January 5, 2014 at 4:44 am

    I have a very thick criss cross necklace the base is sterling but it looks like a thick gold is place over it, it is marked an O or a cero slashed vertical on the center next to a number 54, under is 925 and then 750 also a date that looks like 1838 1839.
    I have not idea where it came from, I know is an old piece.
    can somebody give me any idea Thanks

  6. January 5, 2014 at 7:51 am

    Hi Lucy,
    It sounds like you might have a Russian hallmark but it would be necessary to see a picture of it to be sure. You can send a close up, clear, full size image of the hallmark to the email link at http://www.hallmarkresearch.com/html/questions.htm.

    Hallmark Research Institute

  7. January 10, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    I’m so happy to have found this !

    My Mom died last March and trying to help my Dad sell off her vintage jewelry collection.
    Much of it is ready to go as she had them label and priced…
    Among the pieces that she didn’t get to, is a carved cameo that has a lantern (?) design on the clasp.
    I see no other markings at all. I guessing that this is a maker’s mark, but have no idea whose.
    If anyone has any information, I would really appreciate it :)
    Thank you so much for the time and effort that you have put in to this wonderful and informative page. I am enjoying looking it over !
    Here is my photo of the mark – it is on a curved claps and hard to see:

    Here is the mark again in someone else’s photo on a flat part:

  8. Ingrid
    January 20, 2014 at 4:37 am

    Love that I found your site. I was searching for info on a 14k C+F OR C+B on this vintage Tiffany & Co watch. A wind up delicate rope like gold bands. Do you have any info on what C+F OR C+B means?
    Thanks for the great article!

  9. January 22, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    The key here is to recognize first if the mark you are looking at is a hallmark or a trademark (maker’s mark). Since the United States does not have hallmarking laws, if your precious metal item was made in the USA, then the marks are the maker’s marks not hallmarks. To read more on the difference go to the Hallmark Research Institute’s website to learn more…


    To research your trademark or maker’s mark, go to the links page and begin your search with the links located under the Trademarks heading…


    Happy Trademark Hunting!

  10. Ingrid
    January 23, 2014 at 4:42 am

    Thanks you for the info!!

  11. Bill
    June 24, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    I have a ring, looks like gold, with possible hallmarks : FB. 9 . Then 2 stars. I thought it may have a history from South Africa. Any suggestions? It also has 3 stones set in it, but not clasped, but appear glued into ring substance. Any ideas, they are clear stones, no colour. Thank you

  12. July 25, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    Hi i also have a gold? ring with themakers mark F.P 9 and 2 stars it has the stones missing i dont know whether this is gold or not aaany clues of country etc .

  13. July 25, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    I also have like along gold book chain necklace with a hand tag that says POLD DESIGN any ideas

  14. Angela Pratt
    September 2, 2014 at 1:20 am


    I have a small yellow diamond marquis that has marked inside 14K then what looks like a backward C then TC 263. Kinda like this cTc 263, but the first “c” is facing the other way.

    Can you give me any information on this?

    Thank you,

  15. October 8, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    Hello again!

    It seems that this article draws a lot of people looking for the identification of the maker of there treasures. Since this article is on hallmarks which are not maker’s marks, the only thing we can do is to offer you some resources to look yourselves. Several replies earlier, I posted a link to our website where we have several places to go to look for makers. We have just added a few more links so if you are still looking, please go to this page and see how many makers there are out there!


    Good Luck!

    With that, we will no longer respond to trademark or maker mark questions since our answers are always the same. If you have questions on hallmarks (Government guarantee marks), we will be happy to answer. We just will need images in order to help.

    Happy Hunting!

  16. donna
    January 16, 2015 at 8:16 pm

    can anyone help? I have bought a brooch and on the back it has REGD OR RECD. any info would be great


  17. Jennifer
    February 5, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    Hi I have a old brooch with marking what looks like G146′ is this a valid stamp please,

  18. Cathy
    February 9, 2015 at 10:15 pm

    I have a substantial vintage diamond brooch that is stamped Cartier in block letters. Is this authentic?

  19. February 12, 2015 at 3:25 am

    hi I have a silver brooch with 5 hallmarks ive taking it to 2 silversmiths 1.is alion or ship 2longbar 3numbers 4 a hand or pair of hands 5a crown or shild ro coat of arms ive have been traying to adentfi the hall marks thank you and very nice page

  20. Brittney
    March 16, 2015 at 10:22 pm

    I just bought a ring and on the inside it has a very little pink stone it’s 14k and it also has RJ on it I think it’s hard to see. Does anyone know who could of made this ring?

  21. Michael Rokicki
    April 6, 2015 at 4:04 am

    My dad gave me a ring for my wedding, his grandfather and father wore it on their wedding day as did he. It is a Gold band and on the inside it has O-B 14k… Does anyone know what the O-B stands for?

  22. lori
    April 8, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    Can you give me an idea of a good reference guide that I can purchase or online reference that can identify hallmarks from some of the more recent sterling & gold designers such as David Yurman, Benham, Caviar, Hardy, Bixby etc etc. thank you.

  23. Shira
    April 25, 2015 at 6:55 am

    To Michael Rokicki:

    The O-B in your ring is a hallmark of Ostby-Barton, a Providence, RI jewelry manufacturer that was one of the biggest in the world in the early-mid 20th century. Mr. Ostby and his daughter were passengers on the Titanic.

  24. Corinne
    May 13, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    Hello, my friend’s bought a platinum wedding band for her husband, and there are two marks on the OUTSIDE of the ring. One looks like a bad platinum hallmark (has not been fully stamped) and the other honestly just looks like a pit from the soldering. The store told her it’s normal in France to put the hallmarks on the OUTSIDE, but I’ve been in jewelry for 15 years (in the US) and that’s news to me! Does that sound like common practice? And what could the little pit actually be?

  25. Alice
    May 18, 2015 at 11:35 am

    Hello Cathleen.
    I’ve got a brooch, clip mates one.
    it has an arrow mark. The arrow has two parallel
    lines across it.
    I can’t find any information about this mark.

  26. JOHNNY
    June 3, 2015 at 7:50 pm

    my ring is hallmarked BO

    i dnt knw if its REAL gold

  27. Dee Ryan
    June 5, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    I have what looks like an art deco style ring it looks like a oval onyx with a single clear stone in the middle. The sides are very intricate. inside the ring is stamped what looks like a capital d on its side and an e then 14k. Have googled to death but can’t find anything!! Any help would be appreciated!

  28. Martha
    June 13, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    I have a black plastic (possibly bakelite) with magnetic closure, bangle bracelet with a gold bumblebee charm trademark on the inside. It is a beautiful piece. I was wondering if you knew which designer would use that marking.

  29. Heather
    June 14, 2015 at 1:32 am

    I am just wondering if is a usual practice to have a gold ring approx 1890 with the Hallmarks on the outside of the ring?

    Thank you

  30. Kathy
    June 16, 2015 at 7:50 pm

    I have an antique ring I would like to know more about it I know nothing. I am only smart enough to know its pretty old. It has 25 stones all together, it’s a round 14kt gold ring I guess the shape would be like a poison ring but smaller the bottom has gold swirls outside around the ring are 8 small ruby’s (I believe), then there are 8 tear drop stones looks like emerald, diamond, garnet, amber,2 ruby, sapphire, the last one looks like amber only lighter? then there are another smaller 8 ruby’s around the top with a small diamond in the center. guess it is a mothers ring Is there anyway to find out the maker?

  31. sinnie
    June 26, 2015 at 4:09 am

    Hi there Ive been given a Yellow Gold Diamond Cluster 3 Ring Set. it has GM in a circle stamped inside each ring. what does the GM mean. I have searched and searched but cannot find what it stands for. Thanks in advance.

  32. Darlene Reams
    June 30, 2015 at 1:07 am

    Hello. I have an antique brass inkwell. I have never seen another one like it. The hallmark on it is distressing me. I cannot find anything even close to it on the web. If I send a picture, do you think you could tell me where it was made?

  33. Debra
    July 8, 2015 at 11:24 pm

    I saw an old jewelry box yesterday and I’ve never seen one like it before. I wish I could insert a picture. It has a capital H with a branch going thru the letter that leans to the right. I don’t think it’s an american logo but would love to know if anyone has seen it before.

  34. juston
    July 25, 2015 at 12:07 am

    What does the germany stamp mean inside the band of a ring.

  35. Michelle
    July 26, 2015 at 1:05 am

    I recently found a beautiful silver look ring imprinted on the back are the #316L TMA China, anyone have a clue as to what kind of ring I have found?

  36. dona
    July 27, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    Please can someone help me .I have a ring with the mark F.B 2 ** I would very much appreciate any information on where it was made and possibly the year it was made .many thanks

  37. wendy
    August 1, 2015 at 10:42 am

    I have a bracelet with a hallmark of half moon with a dot can you tell me what this is please

  38. Melissa Morris
    August 12, 2015 at 3:51 am

    Hello, my name is Melissa. I have a necklace that is very elegant and simple design with 47 deep red garnets almost black until in the sunlight and certain lighting when the glow is amazing in the stones. The necklace has a simple chain design, and has 5 different stamps at the end that I don’t recognize. MM 143 MEX 925 or 926 or 928 and then an arrow pointing to the right. It is a beautiful piece and as I said before, the stones have such an amazing rich color reflect. How do I find what it is worth?

  39. s
    August 15, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    Help To Identify Ring Markings Please!
    I have a ring from a great aunt. Gold, 7 petal diamond pattern, inside it is 10-14K with the symbols AR-M
    Any idea of origin or info?

  40. Javan
    August 26, 2015 at 7:44 am

    I have a 10k gold ring with black onxy and a old English n on it what dose it mean and what’s it’s value I got it from my grandfather

  41. Trish
    September 6, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    I have an antique ring identical to an ostby barton jade ring someone is selling on ebay in sterling silver for $495 or best offer. There is no OB stamp inside my shank but is printed STERLING with after are 2 sideways coffin shapes with the smaller ends facing outwards. Some letters or numbers are inside the coffin shapes, but I can’t read even with a high power loupe. A number 5 is in the center between coffin stamps. The ring is a size 5, so maybe that explains the 5. But I’m lost to see it definitely looks exactly as the ostby barton but with these strange coffin stamps. Any clues anyone???

  42. Konrad
    October 6, 2015 at 9:04 am

    I have a gold ring with the mark: a dog head in the shape of a flower (four petals), just like the mark on book “World Hallmarks Volume III” ( http://www.hallmarkresearch.com/html/Projects.htm )
    Can anyone tell me from what country is that mark?
    Thanks alot.

  43. Ann
    October 14, 2015 at 9:34 am

    I have a necklace that my Nan left me it has POLD DESIGN written on a heart shape tag?

  44. October 29, 2015 at 9:58 pm

    I just purchased a pair of vintage sterling earrings and am having trouble identifying the hallmark. I believe the stones are real but I am not sure. The hallmark C^A is stamped above 925 Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you

  45. Konrad
    October 31, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    So, this is the website for questions, not for answers. What a pity… Nobody wants to help us. Maybe nobody knows…

  46. HRI
    November 1, 2015 at 8:55 am

    Dear Readers,

    While it may look like we are not paying attention, we are but the majority of the questions are on maker’s marks or trademarks. While we have replied repeatedly with the same answer, most seem to have missed those posts. Forgive the redundancy…

    It seems that this article draws a lot of people looking for the identification of the maker of their treasures. Since this article is on hallmarks which are not maker’s marks, the only thing we can do is to offer some resources for you to research. We have created a webpage where you can do more searching and see how many makers are out there! Hopefully, you can find yours…


    If you have questions on hallmarks (Government guarantee marks), we will attempt to answer but to really understand what you are seeing, we need to see images of your mark. Please note, since we are working hard to complete our next project, any question posted may not be answered immediately.

    With that said, there are a few questions here that are on hallmarks that have not had replies. Thank you Konrad for spurring us to step back in for a moment to reply. Thank you for your patience.

    The next post will answer the questions that are on hallmarks…

  47. HRI
    November 1, 2015 at 9:23 am

    There are quite a few questions here. Most of which are questions about maker’s marks. There are a few that would need a photo to be sure of the appearance of the mark. The remaining few are noted below. Two refer to a country mark and two are distinctly hallmarks…

    Country Name in the Mark…

    In response to several questions in this forum that have the name of a country stamped on their precious metal item… It is by regulation that the U.S. Customs and Border Control requires any item of foreign make be marked with the country of origin before imported. Generally, on precious metals the name of the country stamp will be accompanied by a metal purity mark and possibly a maker’s mark.

    Hello Heather

    The practice of placing the hallmark on the outside of a ring shank dates back a few centuries and has carried on to present day in several countries. As we understand it, throughout history various types of items both local and imported were subject to control for any number of reasons. Control was exercised for census taking or for revenue generating duties and taxes. Each would require a fee be paid. Proof of payment with precious metals would be in the form of a stamp struck onto the metal. It could be done at import or when hallmarked for legal sale, or during a regime change and compelled by law. It was not uncommon for the items to be randomly inspected when tax collectors, ministry inspectors, or border agents conducted compliance checks. By placing the mark on the outside of the shank it allowed the wearer to show the mark, without having to take the ring off, by just opening their palm of their hand. Please note: While this seems to be a most logical answer, we have never found documentation to support this or any other explanation.

    Hello Konrad,

    The hallmark that is on the front of our future Volume III Compendium is not a dog but a young Dama Gazelle found in the open lands of Morocco. The head of this gazelle is found in a quatra-lobed shape. This hallmark is found on gold items that were tested in Morocco by the long time used metal testing method called ‘touchstone’. To test by touchstone, the item in question is rubbed on a basalt-like black stone along with similar streaks of known fineness. Acid is then dragged across the streaks and the reaction is observed to determine the fineness. Touchstone tested items are considered of limited guarantee because they are tested only for a minimum purity and cannot identify specifically the actual purity of an item with pinpoint accuracy like fire assay or xrf testing. A touchstone tested item will generally have a different hallmark than one of formal assay tested items. This Moroccan hallmark is one of these limited guarantee hallmarks. Another more commonly recognized touchstone hallmark is the French eagle’s head hallmark that also represents that the items tests at a minimum of 18k/750 fineness. That means it is 18k gold or better. Konrad, your item has a limited guarantee hallmark struck by an assay office in Morocco. This hallmark first was used in 1925 and has been in use into the 21st century.

    Hope that helps!

  48. November 2, 2015 at 8:55 pm

    Thank you once again, Danusia, for taking the time to cull through the many queries this article elicits. Clearly, there is still a lot of confusion about maker’s marks vs. hallmarks. I wonder if it would help to do a follow-up with photos that show both?

  49. HRI
    November 2, 2015 at 11:31 pm

    Most definitely! I was thinking the same thing and agree that there needs to be more specific info on understanding and recognizing the difference of hallmarks vs trademarks and what each mean.
    Let’s plan on another article on the topic with more images for after the new year. Hopefully, by then, our time will be more open for compiling an appropriate article on the topic!

    Until then, Happy Holidays!

  50. Cat
    November 19, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    I find a diamond ring in my house. I thinks that is diamond.
    I saw inside of the ring have a stamp mark 750 D. I know what is 750 means but I don’t know what about the “D” inside of ring.
    Thank you for your help.

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