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Present-day Cartier jewelry is always engraved with the Cartier logo, along with a serial number specific to that piece only.Jewelry from Van Cleef & Arpels will also include a serial number accompanying the brand trademark, and depending on the era of the piece, the maker’s mark can either read “Van Cleef & Arpels” or “VCA.” Aside from purity and maker’s marks, some jewelry will also have symbols and letters, particularly hallmarks, inscribed on it.

Jewelry marks in France stretch back even earlier, with examples first seen in the 13th century.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.Any British jewelry made prior to 1999 were required to include a date letter stamp, a letter corresponding to the year that it was registered with the assay office.Assay offices are official governmental establishments who are tasked to assay, or test, the purity of jewelry metals and in some cases, to hallmark the jewelry.collections created by designers Frank Gehry, Paloma Picasso, Jean Schlumberger, and Elsa Peretti also feature the designers’ signatures on the jewelry.

With antique and vintage pieces, French brand Cartier had to adhere to several guidelines set forth by the French government.

If jewelry is marked with “Vermeil,” it is a piece of sterling silver topped off with gold plating.

When considering platinum jewelry, the purity mark “950” denotes a composition of 95 percent platinum with a mix of other metal alloys, while “900” is made up of 90 percent platinum, and “850” has 85 percent platinum.

The study of jewelry marks is a fascinating subject infused with history, culture, and art.

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.

Purity marks on gold jewelry will consist of a two-digit number followed by the letter “k,” or a three-digit number.