Pricing Guides & Dictionary of Makers Marks for Antiques & Collectibles

Types of signed Jewelry and their value

Enamel and Turquoise Puppy Brooch - French hallmarks
Enamel and Turquoise Puppy Brooch - with French hallmarks

Identifying the maker, style and period of jewelry are key to researching their value. In general, jewelry can be classified in terms of its materials, for example, if made in silver or other precious metal and has encrusted jewels of some value, it is usually termed as Fine Jewelry. In contrast, Costume Jewelry refers to items made using non-precious metals and no embedded precious stones. Fashion Accessories are also divided into the same two categories, with most jewelry makers also producing fashion accessories of all types and using the same marks.

If selling or buying jewelry, its precious metal content or purity is very important in trying to establish a price. Most jewelry is marked with hallmarks revealing all necessary information as to its origin and precious metal content. Precious metals like Silver, Gold, or Platinum, have specific hallmarks for each country and usually span a certain specific time period. These are referred to as Standard or Assay Hallmarks and can help in determining the country of origin and age of most jewelry or fashion accessories. Although many countries have official hallmarks that are registered and enforced, some regions of the world do not, but jewelers from those places frequently use other symbols that give enough clues to identify them correctly.

Makers marks on jewelry are yet another very important indication since the reputation of a company or designer are also significant factors in appraising their worth. On vintage jewelry, rarity and intricate designs are an important consideration as to whether they can retain a high valuation and keep appreciating. On newer jewelry, and other than their content in precious metals or stones, the main factor is the prestige of the designer. Mass-produced unsigned jewelry, even if made using expensive materials, usually fetch lower prices at auction and their value is mostly dependent on the purity and overall weight of their precious metal content and/or any precious stones.

Our marks4silver section at our research website, includes thousands upon thousands of worldwide makers marks, hallmarks, trademarks and other symbols used to sign Jewelry and Fashion Accessories, regardless of metal and spanning all periods. Also and most importantly, our specialists are always on standby to answer any questions for free to our members.

MALACHITE AND SILVER JEWELRY with maker's mark and hallmark
MALACHITE AND SILVER JEWELRY with maker's mark and hallmark

Depending on current market conditions, certain genres or styles of jewelry and fashion accessories are more popular, but these trends tend to change rapidly so it is important that a collector realizes that some pieces may be most desirable or expensive now but may lose some of their value later. For example, Mexican silver jewelry from the 1940s – 1970s was very popular in the 1990s, whereas Modernist jewelry from the 1950s – 1960s era have seen a recent resurgence in popularity and a considerable increase in their prices, especially those made by well-known designers and makers from various Scandinavian countries. Native-American or American-Indian (Southwest) jewelry saw their peak around the 1980s- 1990s, yet seem to have retained their value well, especially if made by master artisans with a rich legacy of traditional symbolism related to their native tribe or origin. However, Southwest jewelry's popularity is mainly limited to within the USA where its significance is best appreciated, but may not be as desirable in other parts of the world, with few exceptions.

Very old pre-Tsarist Russian jewelry is still very popular because of their classic and remarkably ornate detailing. These do better at auctions in many European capitals since many rich expats usually have a second home there. French vintage jewelry or antique fashion accessories have a universal appeal, especially if made by Paris jewelers of the period since France remains a magnet for famous and talented designers. British-made jewelry tends to be more formal and not very ornate, so in that sense, they seem to be holding their value, but their appeal fluctuates over time as styles fall in and out of vogue.

Modernist abstract sterling brooch with amethyst bead and American maker's marks
Modernist abstract sterling brooch with amethyst bead and American maker's marks

The most recent jewelry and fashion accessories entrants in the market are designers based in the US or Europe who have their creations mass-produced in other countries like China, India, Thailand etc. These are beautiful designs and merit a closer look, but their value is highly dependent on the content of any precious metals or stones, rather than the brand or place of origin. In many cases, they sell at a much higher price when new through several TV shopping channels or internet websites, but lose their value in the secondary market. Endorsements by famous personalities when selling these on TV, does not make them more valuable - these are simply marketing gimmicks to make them more attractive. Also, one should be careful with some of the terms used in describing the metal or stones on these, as they tend to be misleading, especially when it comes to diamond-like stones and thin layers of flashed gold or silver whose purpose is to improve their aesthetic appeal, but add nothing to their monetary value.

Check our research guides to help you in identifying and appraising your own collection at