Jewellery is a notoriously difficult asset class to value, particularly if you don’t know exactly where it has come from. The more you know about an item of jewellery, the easier it is to determine its value. Often with heirloom jewellery you may not know the history and provenance of the item, particularly if notes and receipts weren’t left with it. This presents a particular challenge when valuing heirloom jewellery. In this article we’ll explain where to start.
In an ideal world you will have your heirloom jewellery professionally appraised. Chubb’s Valuable Articles cover holders have access to the Little Black Book, a collection of professionals -such as jewellery appraisers- whom we have sourced for you and that you might wish to consider engaging.
The 1973 Hallmarking Act makes it illegal to market gold, silver, palladium or platinum jewellery in the UK if it hasn’t been hallmarked. A hallmark is a stamp of quality and authenticity, signifying the purity and provenance of your jewellery. You may need a magnifying glass to make out the hallmark. If you don’t have one to hand, you could always try using a mobile phone app.
A hallmark consists of three main parts:
The Maker’s Mark is a symbol which is unique to a particular craftsperson, or maker. The Mark consists of at least two encircled letters. No two marks are the same.
Precious metals used in jewellery will always be alloys; a mixture of one or more metals. This can be because an alloy is easier to work with, perhaps more resistant to corrosion, or because it is technologically impossible to achieve 100% purity due to contamination of a metal with other elements. The greater the proportion of the precious metal to alloying metals, the higher the purity. The Fineness Mark goes up to 999, which indicates the highest possible quality, 99.9% purity. The shape of the encirclement indicates the type of metal used.
An Assay Office is where jewellery is tested and marked. In the UK there are four places where this takes place: London, Birmingham, Sheffield and Edinburgh. Each location has its own crest, or mark, for instance London’s leopard head.
Head to the UK government’s website for full guidance regarding hallmarking.
It’s possible that not all jewellery will be hallmarked, particularly older pieces dating from before 1973.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that the regulations surrounding hallmarks can vary from country to country. This guide is specific to the UK’s hallmarking conventions.
Once you’ve determined the value of your heirloom jewellery, it’s important to put adequate protection in place in case of damage, loss or theft. Find out more about Chubb’s valuable articles cover here.