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In the United States, the National Gold and Silver Stamping Act of 1906 required jewelers to include an accurate purity mark, which indicates the materials used in a given work.In 1961, the American government also mandated that jewelry manufacturers include a maker’s mark, which indicates the maker.Iconic jewelry house Tiffany & Co., for example, has featured several maker’s marks throughout their 179-year history, including “Tiffany & Co.” and “T & Co.” Special edition Tiffany & Co.collections created by designers Frank Gehry, Paloma Picasso, Jean Schlumberger, and Elsa Peretti also feature the designers’ signatures on the jewelry.An important year to know if you’re collecting French antique jewelry is the year 1797, when it was required to have a maker’s mark framed within a lozenge, a diamond-shaped charge that is often placed on the field of a shield.Purity marks on gold jewelry will consist of a two-digit number followed by the letter “k,” or a three-digit number.“International, particularly European, jewelry typically has hallmarks, while American jewelry is usually stamped 14k or 18k,” says Virginia Salem, head of the Jewelry & Watches Department at Freeman’s.

If you’re looking to expand your jewelry collection or would like to know more about the examples you already have, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide on what these tiny etchings really mean – and how to ensure you’re buying the real thing.Often overlooked due to their minuscule size, the etchings hidden within jewelry are a window into the “who, what, and where” of the object— and are well worth a serious look.From contemporary pieces to antiques, jewelry hallmarks are typically found on gold and silver jewelry.Jewelry from the UK contains a series of compulsory and optional jewelry marks set out by the countries’ assay offices.One of the compulsory marks is the Assay Office Mark, a symbol which indicates the regional office that hallmarked the item: an anchor signifies Birmingham, a castle for Edinburgh, a leopard’s head for London, and a rose for Sheffield.

Silver pieces imprinted with a lion denotes 92.5 percent silver — thus sterling silver — while the Britannia mark means that it has 95.8 percent pure silver.

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