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The most important point in identifying UK hallmarks is to find the assay town mark. There are four assay offices still in operation in the UK: London, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Sheffield.The Goldsmiths' Company Assay Office is the London hallmark - our town mark is the leopard's head.
In 1961, the American government also mandated that jewelry manufacturers include a maker’s mark, which indicates the maker.
Hallmarking in Great Britain has had a long history dating back to the 14th century and today’s standards are regulated by the Hallmarking Act of 1973.
Spending a little extra time at the outset, getting to know as much as possible about the piece, before beginning to research for hallmarks, maker's marks and purity/assay marks will save time in the long run.
Many of the hallmark and maker's mark reference materials are organized by time period, some books covering only a particular jewelry era.
Solving the intriguing riddle posed by the marks stamped onto a piece of jewelry involves the use of a variety of skills and a wealth of knowledge. However, labeling a piece as having originated during a particular era requires an understanding of the style, design attributes, materials available, gemstones and their cutting techniques, manufacturing techniques and a basic knowledge of world politics, events and influences during the time in question.