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The hallmarks of gold, platinum and silver: From the guarantee of the metal to the guarantee of a "Savoir Faire"

by Julie MIALET 14 Mar 2023

A bit of history :

Hallmarking is an ancient technique that can be traced back to prehistoric times. It consists of shaping an object by applying pressure to its surface with a tool to transfer a shape or a symbol. This process is used in leather goods, sewing, printing, ceramics, goldsmithing and jewelry.

If the first known forms of hallmarks on precious metal objects date back to antiquity, they served at the time only as a signature for the craftsman. The value of the hallmark will evolve gradually up until the Middle Ages when this signature will also carry the guarantee of its metal.

In the 13th and 14th centuries, the first type of control appeared, first in Paris and then in the rest of the kingdom. This control was devolved to the goldsmiths' guilds, which had to check the quality of the metal of their members's works. This examination is validated by the affixing of a hallmark representing a fleur-de-lis.

Statue of Etienne Boileau on the facade of the town hall of Paris, provost of Paris from 1261 to 1270 who was the first to require the hallmarking of goldsmiths' works.

It was in the 16th century that the control of precious metals took the form of a tax (a well-established custom in France) which was rationalized in the following century. Thus, under Louis XIV, the Minister of Finance Colbert codified the affixing of four hallmarks on precious works: that of the goldsmith, that of his corporation, that of the charge before the payment of the tax and that of the discharge after the payment of the tax.

Hallmarks of the common house of Paris from 1507 to the French Revolution, Tardy 13th edition.

This system lasted until the French revolution, which, with the abolition of privileges, saw the emergence of a simpler system of which we are still the heirs.


The hallmark nowadays also called hallmark of guarantee:

Today and even though legislation has evolved, the guaranteed titles remain the same as those specified during the French Revolution. The current hallmarks for gold are as follows: a trefoil for 375 ‰ or 9 carat gold, a scallop shell for 585 ‰ or 14 carat gold and finally the eagle head for 750 ‰ or 18 carat gold. Finally there is the seahorse hallmark reserved for 999 ‰ gold or almost pure, very rarely visible on jewelry because gold of this purity is too fragile, it will be more often affixed to ingots.

Back of a Chaumet ring where appear its punches: An eagle's head in an oval on the left and the workshop's signature in a diamond on the right.

In the case of platinum there is the dog head hallmark which guarantees a platinum of minimum 850 ‰ but there is a particular hallmark for pure platinum which is a penguin.

On some jewelry we can observe the presence of two punches, one of gold and one of platinum, this indicates a work mixing these two alloys.

Even today a large number of jewels do not have a hallmark, either because they have been modified or cut, or because they were not originally affixed or because they come from abroad. In these cases, it is possible to have a different guarantee hallmark affixed by customs, an owl for 18-carat gold or a mascaron for platinum.

Table of current guarantee hallmarks

Remember, the guarantee hallmark (Always a tax!!!) is a mandatory hallmark for all gold or platinum works of more than 3 grams or silver of more than 30 grams.

Since 2021, the customs service has authorized certain workshops to use a guarantee technique by laser marking. It allows a greater freedom in the creation of jewelry since there is no more risk of deformation.


The hallmark of mastery :

In parallel with the guarantee hallmark, there is a so-called "mastery" hallmark affixed to each piece of jewelry made in a French workshop. This hallmark is important because it makes it possible to find the name of its creator or the workshop that made it on some old work of the XXth century. In addition, some of these master hallmarks are becoming more important because they can be traced back to pieces of designers or big houses that are sometimes unsigned. A real treasure hunt begins.

In the world of fashion, the French hallmark goes beyond the simple guarantee of the metal and takes on that of an internationally recognized "savoir faire". These hallmarks, which were hidden until now, are highlighted by some houses such as Dior or Hermès, which bring them to light.

Ring "Gourmette" Dior Joaillerie and Ring Etoile Hermès

Regarding the silver hallmarks we will only talk about the current hallmark which is a minerva head. If, in this article we did not go into details about the specific silver's hallmarks, it is because it would require a separate study and specific to their characteristics. In addition, there would also be much to say about foreign hallmarks but it is a subject just as broad even if all countries do not necessarily have hallmarks to guarantee the precious metals.

Whether it is a title hallmark or a master hallmark, they have their importance because they constitute the traceability in the history of a piece.

If you are interested in vintages jewels, do not hesitate to discover what Les Pierres de Julie has to offer in store...

We are also available for any free expertise of your jewelry, for that you can send an email with your photos to

Whether you're interested in buying a piece of jewellery or a stone, a free jewelry appraisal or jewelry resale, Pierres de Julie welcomes you to its Parisian boutique in the Village Suisse, a stone's throw from the Ecole Militaire and the Esplanade des Invalides.

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