What are jewellery marks and what do they mean?
Jewellery marks generally serve two purposes (a) to identify the maker and (b) to certify the metal purity used to manufacture the piece. Unfortunately there isn't a single standard for marking jewellry so jewellers in each country have followed different traditions, Some similarities exist (which can either help or hinder identification!). People often confuse hallmarks with maker's marks but they are technically different.
What are the purity marks?
Purity marks indicate the metal used to make the piece. So for example if you buy a 18ct gold ring, you're buying something that is made from 75% gold. A 9ct ring would be 37.5% gold. Pure gold is 24ct. Stirling Silver is 92..5% silver. The alloy used to make up the remaining material can be a variety of metals - so often for stirling silver the alloy is copper. White gold is simply made using an allow of a white metal such as manganese, nickel or palladium.
What are the maker marks?
Makers' marks are the marks that indicate to us who the manufacturing jeweller and sometimes the retailer were. While the marks are often unique, there can be some common symbols that were used by numberous makers (like crowns and stars). It always helps if there is some history to the jewellery to start narrowing down the area where it came from (at least the country). While there are lots of references of the makers marks, there isn't a single source so it can be a big challenge to track them down.
Are there any other clues that can help?
Certainly! Just like any other fashion, the nature and style of jewellery has changed throughout the years - so too have some of the methods for manufacture. The catches and fixings have also changed and can give us strong clues about the age of the piece. For example, earlier brooches (Victorian) would typically have a 'c' clasp fixing and a bar style hinge. The 'fishtail' style and ball hinge didn't really start coming in until the early the 1900's. The purity marks can also often tell us a little about the piece.
Older jewellery was often made in 15ct gold which isn't a standard today. Also the UK and Australia would normally use the 'C' or 'CT' symbols, whereas the americans and South Africans would often use 'K' or 'Kt'. The americans also commonly made 14ct gold.
Who are we and why do we help people?
We do this because we have an interest in Australian jewellery and want to see it preserved rather than sold and melted down for scrap. Australian jewellery is relatively rare and forms part of our heritage. Check out more about us here.