Gold Standards Used in Antique English Jewellery
Posted on November 05 2018
We are often asked about the differing carats of gold and markings used in the pieces we sell. This post aims to answer some of the most common questions our customers ask.
What is a Hallmark? A full hallmark is a set of three compulsory stamps, applied at an Assay Office, which records the carat of the metal, the Assay Office used, the year, and maker. In addition the sponsor or maker's mark can be added. If an item has been hallmarked, it will usually have been done at one of the main Assay Offices; London, Birmingham or Chester.
Why aren't all pieces hallmarked? Up until 1975 (yes, really!) gemset jewellery was exempt from hallmarking in the UK and these exemptions mean that many of our antique pieces don't have full marks which would make them traceable to an exact year or maker. However, they do usually have a simple jeweller's stamp for the carat which could be done in the workshop to make the carat of a piece easily identifiable (see pic left).
How is gold different colours? Gold is alloyed with other metals to strengthen it for use in jewellery making. The colour can be altered depending on the alloy metals used; for white gold usually either usually silver, manganese, or palladium, and for rose gold, copper is added.
The gold standards used in antique English jewellery
The great majority of jewellery we sell is English in origin, and there are some standards which are unique to English Jewellery. Custom has meant that the varying standards have been used for different purposes;
Silver - Regulated from 1300 as a 'sterling standard.'
22ct - Introduced in 1576 as the 'gold standard'. You'll find this mostly used for making wedding rings and older rings such as Mourning rings made prior to 1800.
18ct - Introduced as a standard in 1798 and generally used for better quality rings and general jewellery.
15ct - Introduced as a standard in 1854 - 1932. Used widely for better quality jewellery including rings, brooches, it is a very warm beautiful yellow gold
12ct - Introduced as a standard in 1854 - 1932. It is quite rare to see surviving items which were made using this standard nowadays
9ct - Introduced as a standard in 1854, very widely used for all manner of types of jewellery and still so today.
14ct - Introduced in 1932 when 15ct and 12ct were discontinued, but rarely used in the UK.
Platinum - A naturally white metal, more costly than silver and 'white gold', marked from 1975 and used for high quality pieces as well as for settings to Diamond jewellery due to its strength.