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What Is a Hallmark on Jewelry?

on Dec 31, 2023

Given the considerable value associated with pure metals, it becomes crucial to ascertain the authenticity of a piece of jewelry. Distinguishing between solid gold or silver, plated base metals, or weaker alloys isn't feasible through visual or tactile means alone. This scenario creates ample opportunities for fraudulent practices within the industry. 

Hallmarking, therefore, stands as a safeguard for both buyers and suppliers in the jewelry market, ensuring that items are genuine and meet the prescribed standards.

What is a Hallmark

A hallmark acts like an official stamp present on precious metal items. It offers insights into the composition and purity of the metal. Additionally, it may encompass valuable details regarding the jewelry's manufacturer and origin.

Think of a hallmark as similar to a diamond certificate, but tailored to precious metals. This distinctive mark provides comprehensive information such as the maker's name, the location of the assay, the purity of the precious metal, the date of creation, and whether it commemorates a significant national event.

Hallmarks are typically arranged in a horizontal line, modestly sized, and measured slightly less than 1.5mm in height.

Difference Between a Hallmark and a Maker’s Mark

Makers Mark vs Hallmark

A maker's mark is a distinctive personal trademark for the individual accountable for the precious metal content in a piece. It contains the initials of the jeweler. A maker's mark carries significant information about a piece of jewelry, including details about its authenticity, origin, time period of creation, etc.

In contrast, a hallmark is a distinct stamp created by an assay office on precious metals. It contains all sorts of information required for a consumer to identify jewelry. It commonly indicates the purity of precious metals. 

For instance, in the USA, a piece crafted from 75% gold and 25% alloy will have the stamp "18K," indicating its 18-karat gold composition. In France, a similar piece would be stamped with the head of an eagle. This not only verifies the bracelet's gold purity but also attests to its origin, confirming that it was manufactured in France.

Different Types of Hallmarks

Gold Hallmarks

where to find gold purity on a piece of jewelry

The key stamp to examine is the purity grade, providing information about the type of gold employed in the jewelry, spanning from 10 karats to 24 karats. This mark can come in various forms, such as a 3-digit numeric set (e.g., 750) or a more explicit indication like "14k" for 14-karat gold. 

The numerical representations signify the gold metal content of each symbol, corresponding to purity levels as percentages. Essentially, they provide information about the proportion of precious metal in the jewelry.

  • ‘999.9’ or ‘999’ is 99.9% pure gold: 24k Gold Jewelry.
  • '916' denotes 91.6% pure gold: 22k Gold Jewelry.
  • ‘833’ refers to 83.3% pure gold: 20k Gold Jewelry
  • '750' signifies 75% pure gold: 18k Gold Jewelry.
  • '583' stands for 58.3% pure gold: 14k Gold Jewelry.
  • '417' indicates 41.7% pure gold: 10k Gold Jewelry.

Want to know more about gold karats? Learn more in our blog: "Introduction to All Gold Karats: 9k, 10k, 14k, 18k, 22k, and 24k"

Silver Hallmarks

Silver Hallmarks

Address silver markings (925)

Siilver possesses a unique ability to capture and reflect light, making it exceptionally beautiful in various items such as jewelry, and more. Silver exhibits distinct properties that serve as identifying features, like other precious metals. 

For international silver sellers, stamps like "925," "900," or "800" are commonly used. These numerical markings serve as indicators of the silver's purity level. For instance, "925" denotes that the silver has a purity of 92.5 percent or higher, a standard associated with sterling silver. This meticulous marking system ensures transparency and authenticity in the commercial silver trade.

The hallmark "925" serves as an assurance of authentic silver, specifically referring to sterling silver. Sterling silver is a blend composed of 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent other metals, typically copper.

Platinum

Platinum Hallmarks

Pure platinum, much like other precious metals, is too soft and malleable for practical use. Therefore, it is often alloyed with other metals before being employed in manufacturing. Platinum hallmarks play a crucial role in clearly indicating the purity of platinum in an item, making it easier to calculate its true value.

There are four recognized standards of platinum:

  • 850 (85% pure)
  • 900 (90% pure)
  • 950 (95% pure)
  • 999 (99.9% pure)

Palladium

Palladium Hallmark

The hallmark on palladium features the head of Pallas, making it distinguishable from platinum, which shares the same 950 purity mark. Unlike white gold, palladium doesn't require rhodium re-plating to maintain its silvery-white appearance and doesn't oxidize over time. 

Similar to platinum alloys, palladium is nickel-free and must meet specific purity standards, such as 550, 950, or 999 parts per thousand, to be classified as palladium. In the commonly used jewelry alloy, 950 palladium, it is 95% pure, with the remaining 5% primarily composed of ruthenium and a few other elements.

Compared to gold, palladium exhibits higher purity and is notably harder than any gold alloy, being 15% tougher than platinum. Due to its durability, palladium is an ideal choice for crafting wedding rings and everyday jewelry.

Can Hallmarks be Fake? 

Yes, hallmarks can be fake and easily replicated. In order to avoid buying jewelry with fake hallmarks we suggest following the given steps:

  • Buy from Reputable Jewelry Sellers:

Established businesses are more likely to adhere to ethical standards, and they often have their pieces officially hallmarked by recognized assay offices.

  • Learn About Hallmarking Standards:

Familiarize yourself with the hallmarking standards and regulations in your region. Different countries may have specific requirements, and understanding these standards can help you identify genuine hallmarks.

  • Assay Office Certificates:

Some jewelry pieces come with assay office certificates that provide additional details about the metal's purity. You can verify the authenticity of these certificates and cross-check the information with the actual hallmarks. Learn more how to identify a fake silver!

Conclusion

A hallmark on jewelry is an official stamp on precious metal items that provides information about the metal's composition, purity, manufacturer, and origin. It acts as a safeguard against fraudulent practices in the jewelry market. Hallmarks are distinct from maker's marks, which represent the jeweler responsible for the metal content, represented as an initial. 

Hallmarks are crucial for verifying authenticity and adherence to standards. To avoid fake hallmarks, buyers should purchase from reputable sources, be familiar with hallmarking standards, check for consistency in markings, and verify assay office certificates when available.

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    Author: Joosep Seitam
    Author: Joosep Seitam
    Joosep was born in Tallinn, Estonia - a small country in northern Europe. He is an entrepreneur and one of the co-founders of Icecartel. Joosep has been in the jewelry industry since 2019, the year when he started the brand from scratch. During these years, Joosep has learned everything there is about the jewelry industry and he's here to share it all!
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    Author: Joosep Seitam
    Author: Joosep Seitam
    Joosep was born in Tallinn, Estonia - a small country in northern Europe. He is an entrepreneur and one of the co-founders of Icecartel. Joosep has been in the jewelry industry since 2019, the year when he started the brand from scratch. During these years, Joosep has learned everything there is about the jewelry industry and he's here to share it all!

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