Dating gold hallmarks

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In addition to the fineness, hallmarks can show where and when an item was hallmarked, and under whose name it was submitted.

This page helps you to make a start on identifying the hallmarks in your watch case, and then leads you to another page with more detail.

Precious metal (gold and silver, and more recently platinum) objects have by law been tested and marked in England since at least the year 1300, and since 1478 had to be taken to Goldsmiths' Hall in London, from which the term ‘hallmarking’ originate.

A hallmark is a separate stamp made by an assay office – in countries that have an assay office. In many cases, as with French jewelry or Swiss watches, you’ll find both maker’s marks and hallmarks. Buying jewelry from countries with a hallmarking system offers more of a guarantee, if you can decipher the marks. You’ll find animal heads on French jewelry, for example, a numerical code on British jewelry, and a combination of symbols and numbers on Russian jewels. A good appraiser can help and it’s always wise to buy from trusted dealers who offer written guarantees.

But any serious collector should have a jeweler’s loupe and a decent hallmarking guide, and start learning to decipher the code.

In countries with an assay system in place, it’s illegal to sell fine jewelry and watches without a hallmark – which is why Tiffany & Co. Doing this doesn’t cost that much and allows them to offer their jewelry for sale on the European market.

The UK is among 19 countries that belong to the Hallmarking Convention, formed in 1976 to create a set of standards for assay offices so jewelry wouldn’t have to be re-tested every time in crossed borders.

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