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Recognizing Hallmarks: Antique Symbols Stamped on Jewelry

Have you ever wondered what all those symbols stamped on antique jewelry mean? If so, you’ve come to the right place! Antique jewelry markings can reveal a wealth of information about the history and symbolism behind each piece. 

From love tokens to family heirlooms, uncovering these hallmarks is an exciting journey that may just lead you to Willyn Villarica’s unique pieces. Read on for our comprehensive guide to recognizing hallmarks in antique jewelry!

Why Recognizing Symbols Stamped on Jewelry Matter?

When buying jewelry, you might see markings on the metal with letters and numbers. These markings indicate the quality and authenticity of the jewelry. Some markings help identify the metal content or country of origin, while others display the brand name, trademark, or other hallmarks.

Understanding the characteristics of modern and antique jewelry can assist you in identifying its worth and past.

For buyers, being aware of markings can be a lifesaver in differentiating scammers from genuine sellers. As a vendor, understanding the various stamps & symbols can help you set your prices accurately and sell items quickly.

Common Types of Antique Jewelry Markings

There are a few common symbols and markings that you’ll see stamped on jewelry. To begin, look for the following:

Gold Purity Marks

Gold jewelry is marked with a number followed by the letter “k” or a three-digit number to indicate purity. The letter “k” stands for karats, with 24k being pure gold. A marking of “18k” or “750” means the jewelry is 75% gold, while “14k” or “585” means it is 58.5% gold.

Jewelry that has been engraved with HGE (Heavy Gold Electroplate), GE (Gold Electroplate), or GF (Gold Filled) may look like it’s made of gold. However, it’s actually made from other materials like copper and has only a small amount of gold in it.

Read More: Gold Testing 101: How to Know if Gold is Real

Maker’s Marks

Jewelry makers use maker’s marks such as logos, trademarks, company names, and designer signatures to identify themselves. For instance, Tiffany & Co. has used several maker’s marks over its 179-year history, including “Tiffany & Co.” and “T & Co.” Their special edition jewelry collections, designed by Frank Gehry, Paloma Picasso, Jean Schlumberger, and Elsa Peretti, also bear the respective designers’ signatures.

Cartier, the French jeweler, and watchmaker, followed guidelines from the French government for its antique and vintage pieces. Each modern Cartier jewelry has an engraved Cartier logo and a distinct serial number for identification purposes.

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Decoding Antique Symbols: Understanding Their Meaning

When purchasing or inspecting jewelry, you may notice several markings on the back of the items. Here are some common key symbols and its meaning: 


Anchors represent stability, safety, and security. It is also associated with the zodiac sign of Cancer—the crab—for its tenacious grip; 


The heart symbolizes love, passion, and life. It can also be used to express a meaningful friendship or deep devotion to someone special. 

How to Identify Antique Symbols Stamped on Jewelry

There are a few ways you can identify antique symbols on jewelry. Here are the steps you can follow:

Step 1: Look at the Manufacturing Methods

The methods used to manufacture jewelry differ, but certain features can help date pieces accurately. One such feature is hand engraving, particularly on a signet ring, which suggests that the item is from at least the 1900s.

If you come across delicate and detailed filigree work in white gold or platinum, it is likely that the jewelry belongs to the Edwardian or Art Deco era. The stones used in the jewelry can also provide clues; round brilliant cut diamonds were introduced in the early 1900s through machine stone cutting and are still the most commonly used diamond cut today. 

In contrast, older jewelry from the Georgian and Victorian eras features hand-cut gems such as the rose cut, while Edwardian and Art Nouveau jewelry used the European cut.

Different countries have different standards for metals. This can help you determine the origin of your item. For instance, in the United States, jewelry must have at least 41.6% gold (10k) to be considered gold jewelry. Whereas, in the UK, 9k gold is commonly used, so if your item has 9k gold, it is likely that it was made in the UK.

Related: Gold Purity: How is Gold Measured?

Step 2: Look for Jewelry Stamps

Jewelry stamps, also known as hallmarks, can provide information about the origins and age of an item. Manufacturers may have changed their hallmark over time, and some may have ceased operations in a particular year. Additionally, metal stamps indicating the purity of the metal, such as 14k, 18k, 925 (for sterling silver), and PLAT or 950 for platinum, can also aid in identifying the material used.

Assay marks in the United Kingdom can help determine where an item was manufactured and its metal content. There are four authorized offices in the UK (London, Sheffield, Birmingham, and Edinburgh) that conduct testing and certification of jewelry using metal stamps and other symbols.

Each office has its own corresponding assay stamp in a specific order: a leopard’s head, a rose, an anchor, and a castle. It is important to note that different countries have their own standards for marking items and using unique symbols.

Using Jewelry Marks as a Guide: Tips for Collectors

From love tokens to family heirlooms, antique jewelry can tell stories about the past and evoke memories of loved ones. But understanding its history and symbolism can be tricky without knowing what to look for, which is why we collected some tips that can help you.

Tip 1: Pay Attention to Symbols

When inspecting jewelry, look closely at any symbols and shapes engraved on the item. These can help you determine if an item is antique or modern. 

Although identifying marks or inscriptions may not always be present, many mythological subjects and historical figures are frequently used and recognizable without difficulty.

For example, if you see a woman with her hair pulled back and wearing a crested helmet placed back on her head, that is the goddess Athena.

Tip 2: Research Jewelry Marks

Do research on the origin of the marks on the back of your jewelry to understand its history better. This includes inspecting all four assay offices in the UK for stamps and researching any other symbols that you find in your item.

Get your Antique Jewelry Inspect With Willyn Villarica Jewelry Today

Discover the beauty and history of antique jewelry with Willyn Villarica Jewelry! With many years of experience, our experts can help you identify hallmarks, symbols, and inscriptions that can reveal the true age and origin of your item. Let us guide you through the engravings, metals, and stone cuts of your unique antique jewelry today!

Willyn Villarica is your trusted partner for jewelry appraisal services, catering to clients around the globe. Our expertise and commitment to excellence ensure accurate and reliable assessments of your precious gemstones. It’s important to note that while we offer our services worldwide, clients are responsible for covering all travel expenses. 

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to have your diamonds expertly graded by Willyn Villarica.

To request information or schedule appointments, please feel free to contact us via email at admin@willynvillaricajewelry.com, you may also connect with us through our official Facebook (Willyn Villarica Jewelry) and Instagram (@willynvillarica_jewelry) accounts. Should you require immediate assistance, we are also accessible for direct communication at +63279497547.

Antique Symbols on Jewelry FAQs

Can I rely solely on symbols to determine the value of antique jewelry?

No, symbols alone cannot determine the value of antique jewelry. Other factors such as condition, metal purity, and stone quality must be taken into account in order to gauge the true worth of an item.

What if I can’t find any symbols on my antique jewelry?

That doesn’t necessarily mean that the item isn’t authentic. Symbols may have been hidden or worn away over time, or they could be a newer piece made to look antique. You can always contact an expert like Willyn Villarica Jewelry to help you authenticate the piece.

Is it possible for symbols to be forged or fake?

Yes, it is possible for symbols to be forged or faked. We recommend having your antique jewelry inspected by an expert like Willyn Villarica Jewelry to determine its authenticity and value.

Happy hunting! We hope you find the perfect piece with our guide to recognizing hallmarks. Don’t forget to check.

  • Willyn Villarica

    Willyn Villarica, a third-generation jeweler from the Philippines, brings a wealth of expertise to the world of gemology and jewelry appraisal. As a licensed Graduate Gemologist, accredited by the prestigious Gemological Institute of America, she is not only a master of her craft but also holds the distinction of being the first Filipino member of the National Associ...

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