Jeffrey Levin utilizes 3 identifying marks that can be found on most jewelry pieces in the collections. Having been apprenticed and qualified as a jeweler in South Africa, the English marking system was a familiar precedent for Jeffrey. The following is an explanation of the marks the company uses:
JL is the logo of the company, incorporated in the main graphic mark or logo of Jeffrey Levin.
The stylized JL or “hidden JL” is an original fleur–like design signifying Jeffrey Levin as the designer for the company; this mark is also incorporated in the company logo.
The year mark corresponds with the London Hallmark Office’s mark incorporating a distinctive letter design (font, letter case and shield shape) to keep track of the year in which pieces are assayed; in many cases, also representing the year the piece was made. 2009, the year of our company launch, was a lower case “j” (by chance) and 2010 is a lower case “k”.
Considered the earliest form of consumer protection, the examination of precious metals and related inspection stamps, actually dates back to the fourth century AD with a system of markings found on Byzantine silver.
Marks of quality in Europe were first employed in France in 1260. In the 1300’s Britain enacted a statute for assaying that led to the charter of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths. This company was located in London at the Goldsmith’s Hall, from whence the term “hallmark” is derived.
A hallmark is the mark or marks stamped, impressed, or struck on gold, silver, or platinum which indicate fineness or karat (also called quality or purity marks). Traditionally, marks are struck using steel “punches”. These are stamps created to impress the identifying mark by punching with a hammer into the metal of the item. Great care is taken in order to not displace metal to the point of causing distortion of the article being marked. This is the method Jeffrey Levin uses.
Hallmarks are often confused with maker’s marks. While they are different, a hallmark may also include a maker’s mark as well as other identifying marks. Makers' marks alone are not considered hallmarks. Jewelry is exempted from hallmarking under certain circumstances. However, when a piece of jewelry is hallmarked, the marks can yield clues to a variety of characteristics.
Purity and other identifying marks include:
The tradition of jewelry manufacturing in the USA started only around 1840. The United States has never used hallmarks per se, however one can find many pre 20th century pieces in the USA stamped with European marks. This for the sole reason that many settlers had strong ties to - and traded with - the "old countries". It was not until the early 1900’s that regulations concerning "hallmarking" were issued in the USA through the National Gold and Silver Stamping Act of 1906 (also known as the Jewelers' Liability Act).
Here in the United States, no mark is mandatory on any item of precious metal but if a maker chooses to place a purity mark (14k, 18k, etc.) on an item, it is required there be a mark from the maker to show who is responsible for the guarantee of claimed fineness. In the US jewelry trade, this mark is typically called a "trademark". In other countries, it is called a maker's mark, responsibility or sponsor's mark and may be present along with the hallmarks that a country may stamp in accordance to their system of marks.
One can usually easily distinguish gold marks used in the USA from those in Great Britain by the abbreviation. The UK spelling is "carat" which is shortened as "ct", while in the USA the abbreviation is "k" for "karat".
Gold in its purest form is very soft and is not very suitable to create jewelry from. To give extra strength to the precious metal, other metals are added to make the jewels more durable; these diluted metals are referred to as "alloys." Alloys are a mixture of different metals and the amount of precious metal used to create such an alloy is named the "purity" of the alloy. Purity is measured whether the metals are from recycled sources or new metal content. Recycled metals are derived when incomplete casts, old jewelery, bench scraps and other precious metal scrap are refined to create 24k gold. This gold is then alloyed to the desired karat.
Karat weight is expressed in divisions of 24, with 24 being the purest gold. When one finds a purity mark of 18k, it indicates that the alloy to create the jewelry from is made out of 18 parts of gold and 6 parts of other metal. To translate that to percentages we divide 18 by 24 and multiply it by 100. In the case of 18 karat gold the simple equation will be (18/24) x 100 = 75%.
As more and more countries are transferring to the metric system, you will find the purity being expressed as parts of thousands. 1000/1000 is pure gold in the metric system and an 18 karat gold item will therefore be stamped as 750 (leaving out the trailing "/1000").
The phrase "sterling" is stamped on many post-1870 USA pieces. One will not find that mark on, for instance, English pieces, unless they were fabricated for export. Prior to 1870 the silver standard in the USA was "coin silver" (900/1000) which is slightly lower than sterling (925/1000) silver.
American silver hallmarking is a world unto itself. Each manufacturer uses a host of different symbols. Sites such as the Online Encyclopedia of Silver Marks, Hallmarks & Makers' Marks and the Online Encyclopedia of American Silver Marks provide illustrations of known marks. Company names are often spelled out, though the specific style of lettering may change over time. Full addresses may also be included underneath producers' names.
Bly, John, Discovering HALLMARKS on English Silver, Shire Publications LTD, 2005 (first published 1968)
James, Duncan S., Antique Jewellery, Its Manufacture, Materials and Design, Shire Publications LTD, 2007 (first published 1989)
Romero, Christie, Basic HALLMARK Identification, Krause Publications, 1998