Vintage Jewelry Marks: Help for Dating Your Vintage Jewelry

Why Vintage Jewelry Marks are Important

Maybe you’ve just acquired some vintage jewelry from a family member or friend. Or you found some nice vintage jewelry at a yard or garage sale or at the thrift shop. Whether you plan to keep the jewelry as a family heirloom or would like to resell it, a knowledge of vintage jewelry marks will help you to identify and date it properly.

I often get requests from people asking for help with vintage jewelry they’ve acquired. Because it’s not possible to have a comprehensive discussion of how to identify and date vintage jewelry in a single article, this article is the first in a series, and will specifically address vintage jewelry marks. Future articles in this series will discuss how to date patented jewelry and jewelry without signatures and/or hallmarks.

Signatures vs. Hallmarks – What’s the Difference?

According to Lang Antiques’ Antique Jewelry University, the term “hallmark” refers to any stamps or marks on jewelry and usually includes one or more of the following:

  • Purity marks – indicates gold, silver, or other precious metal content
  • Maker’s marks – the firm or person responsible for guarantee of the purity mark (usually the firm or artist who manufactured the jewelry)
  • Dateletters – indicates when it was made
  • Town marks – indicates where it was made
  • Other marks (described below)

The photo below shows some of the most commonly seen vintage jewelry silver purity marks.

Vintage Jewelry Marks for Silver Purity
Marks commonly used in vintage silver jewelry

Purity marks for older silver pieces can differ from those commonly seen today. For example, most Sterling Silver Jewelry up until the 1940s era was usually stamped “STERLING” or “STER” or “STG.” The “925” mark did not come into common use until later. Some makers continue to use the “STERLING” mark in place of “925” even today.

Vintage jewelry from other countries may have European purity marks, such as “585” for 14K gold and “750” for 18K gold, as shown in the photo below.

Vintage Jewelry Marks for Gold Purity
Various gold purity marks commonly found on vintage and antique jewelry

A hallmark can also include other marks, such as:

  • Designer marks – used when multiple designers worked for the same firm
  • Tally marks – indicate the journeyman or artisan who actually created the piece
  • Retailer marks – a specific sales outlet, usually a large branded store
  • Duty marks – indicate that taxes have been paid on domestic pieces
  • Import and export marks – indicate that taxes have been paid or that items were exempt from taxes
  • Patent and inventory numbers – government or company issued numbers to protect and track jewelry designs

Vintage costume jewelry usually doesn’t have purity marks, but will often have a maker’s mark (commonly called the signature), and can sometimes have a retailer mark and/or patent or inventory marks. Patent numbers are especially helpful when dating older vintage jewelry, and will be covered in a separate article in this series.

Resources for Learning About Hallmarks

Antique Jewelry University: Lang Antiques features a section on their site named “Antique Jewelry University” with lots of useful information, such as this page discussing hallmarks: Hallmarks on Period Jewelry

925-1000: Described as the “Online Encyclopedia of Silver Marks, Hallmarks, and Makers Marks,” the 925-1000 site is the first place I go to research vintage silver jewelry marks. It includes silver marks from many countries and you can access it here: 925-1000 Silver Marks

Vintage Jewelry Marks: Changing with the Times

When learning how to date vintage jewelry, a maker’s mark (or signature) can be a big help, since most companies changed their signatures over time. As a general rule, signatures without a copyright symbol indicate the piece was manufactured prior to 1955. There are exceptions, however. Jewelry companies would often use up their supply of pre-stamped clasps and findings after switching to a new signature, so some pieces made soon after 1955 might not have copyright symbols.

A detailed study of vintage jewelry marks could fill multiple books, but to give some guidance we can use the Trifari company as an example. Trifari always signed its jewelry and was very diligent about protecting its designs. Prior to the change in the copyright law in 1955, the designs were patented. The most commonly seen vintage Trifari pieces have signatures from pre-1955 through the 1990s. In 2000 the company was bought by Liz Claiborne and production was moved overseas to create mass produced unsigned jewelry.

The photo below shows the various signatures you’ll find on Trifari vintage jewelry.

Trifari Vintage Jewelry Signatures
Various signatures for Trifari vintage jewelry from pre -1955 through the 1990s.

Resources for Learning About Vintage Jewelry Marks

Trifari Vintage Jewelry Marks Resource: I’ve published a brief guide with photos that discusses various signagures for Trifari vintage jewelry. You can view it here: My Classic Jewelry Trifari Vintage Jewelry Marks Guide

Vintage Jewelry Marks Resource: You can search for “vintage jewelry marks” for information about the jewelry marks used by various jewelry companies. One site I like to use is Illusions Jewels’ “Researching Costume Jewelry” pages. They have an extensive library of jewelry marks located here: Researching Costume Jewelry. Just scroll down a little and click the letter of the alphabet for the company marks you wish to view.

Resources Page with All Links: If you’d like to have all of the resources mentioned in this article in one place, check out my Resources page: My Classic Jewelry Resources Page

Vintage Jewelry Reference Books

Another way to learn more about vintage jewelry is to read vintage jewelry books. In addition to learning about the history of vintage jewelry or particular designers, they also include wonderful photos, often with the vintage jewelry marks. I’ve accumulated a modest library of vintage jewelry reference books and have created a page on my site that lists some of the best, along with a brief summary for each one. Check it out here: My Classic Jewelry Vintage Jewelry Books

Coming Up

Future articles will discuss other aspects of dating vintage jewelry. Vintage jewelry patents provide a wonderful way to research and accurately date older vintage jewelry. I’m also planning an article describing how to date vintage jewelry that isn’t marked. I hope you’ll come back to read them, or use the form in the upper-right sidebar or at the very end of this page to subscribe to updates, and you’ll have the articles delivered to your inbox.

Please Comment, Share, and Connect

I’d love to hear your feedback. If you found this information helpful, or have any questions at all, please click the comment link below this article to add your comments. To share this article, use the share buttons below. You can also use the Social Media buttons in the right sidebar to visit my pages.

Thank you, Christine 🙂

Recent Articles

Retro Vintage Jewelry: Wonderful Era and Style
Vintage Copper Jewelry Book Review – Copper Art Jewelry: A Different Lustre
Jewelry Glue for Quick Repairs of Your Vintage Jewelry
Napier Vintage Jewelry Information and Company History

France Lapointe

Very usefull infos ! i will be ” watching ” those real vintage ones now !

D’excellente informations!

Evelyn Smith

I have a few pieces of very ornate with inticate work and lots of metal. They are very pretty but I cannot find any names or markings. I will attempt to send a phto example….I cannot send photo on my phone. Neither my phone nor myself. are smart….lol Is there a place that will allow me to send a photo?

Misty P.

Thank you Christine for providing this helpful information, along with providing all those hyperlinks.
Much appreciated. 😀
Your article is well written, plus your added bonus of showing different jewelry marks and signatures is spot on!
You have generously provided a very useful user friendly site that’s actually free.

Misty P.

You are welcome. Sorry it took so long to reply, but I didn’t remember to check back. 🙂 No, I chanced upon this site when looking for different jewelry marks and info.
I did not find this site from Twitter.
~Misty P.

Efuyi A

I have a gold necklace with RNEL marking on both the chain and cross pendant. pls I will need help on the meaning.

Robin Hawn

I have a 14 k gold necklace. On the clasp it has engraved the word butterfly. The clasp is a small hook with a weird looking butterfly. I have never seen this kind of clasp. Do you have any idea? Thank you, Robin

Kay

You’ve shown my silver mark “silver” as number 4 in your silver examples, however, I don’t see a date or place of origin noted. Any information?

THANKS

Jennifer Slone

Maker mark on a sterling silver heart locket that is an “M” inside of an elongated diamond with STER. above it??? Anyone?

Karen K

I have a piece of rhinestone jewelry that looks to be somewhat expensive. It is marked with 7-2 =. Can anyone tell me what this means? It is costume jewelry, I am sure, but it is nice a shiny with diamond shaped, baguettes, some small round and one larger round rhinestone in the center. It is a beautiful piece, just wondering what the marks on the back are for.

Kathy

Great info- thanks for sharing! What do you call a tiny tag, or symbol attached to the jewelry? My grandma left me tons of jewelry and many pieces have a tiny gold key attached. Nothing matching the piece itself, clearly some kind of logo or signature, but have not been able to find any info or even figure out what it is for sure called? Kathy

Laura

I have a silver and marcasite bracelet from around the 1950s. There is a mark on the back of the piece PRK STERLING. Any ideas of the origin? I’m trying to research but not having any luck so far. The bracelet itself is made of 6 leaf shapes with openwork and highlighted with marcasite.

Thank you for any information you can provide

Shelley Neth

I have a vintage silver Fleur de Lis With small pearls from my grandmother (born 1903) that has the Mark 925/1000S. What does that mean, besides Sterling?

Wendall

I have a pearl necklace with a gold flower clasp and inlaid sapphire. On the underside of the clasp is something that looks like an ornate crest with the letters NGM or NCM? Underneath the letters is something that looks like a rooster or other bird? It’s difficult to tell and I’ve looked everywhere and can’t identify the markings. If anyone can help… Thanks!

Michele

Good afternoon. I am trying to identify two antique jewelry marks and was hoping to get your assistance. They are both on rings, the first one the mark resembles -O-, with the circle having a dot in the center. It looks like the morse code symbol for the letter K. This is a simple ring with a solitaire clear glass stone. The second ring, the mark is on the outside of the band, it is a simple ring with an amber stone. The mark looks to have a vine or branch along with the letter O. Any information you may have would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time. Regards,
Michele

Dawn

I have an oval locket that was my mother’s. It’s gold (?) with a flower design on front and black inlay and what looks like a fluer de lis on the back. Inside is not smooth, but looks like tool marks that smoothed it out. Inside the right portion is an XVIIII, scratched into the gold. XVIII = 18, so XVIIII should = 19, but 19 is actually XIX. I haven’t been able to find anything resembling it in order to help identify it or determine its value.

It comes with a heavy chain, with each link engraved with a pattern. It doesn’t clasp in back like modern necklaces where the clasp is hidden at the back of the neck, but clasps near the locket itself.

Can anyone help, or point me in the right direction? Thanks.

Vicki Olson

I have a lovely two tone brooch, a cornucopia with wheat coming out of it. The cornucopia is goldtone and the wheat is silver tone. The two sections are riveted together. The one mark is a number inside a rectangle 48498. I have never come across this before and sites like illusion jewels are of no help as they only use the alpabetical list. Can anyone help?

Jan

I have a brooch with the signature JASPER on it. I can’t find anything about it.
Can anyone give me an idea of where to start? Google only pulls up Jasper the stone.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *