How do I understand the engraving inside a cameo ring?

Written by kate kotler
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How do I understand the engraving inside a cameo ring?
(Hemera Technologies/ Images)

The cameo design is a carving used on brooches, necklaces and rings around the world. Often these heirloom pieces are passed down through generations of families, making it easier to figure out the materials the ring was made with and where it came from. However, if you happen to luck into finding a piece of antique cameo jewellery, like a ring, you may need to decipher the engravings and hallmarks on the inside of the ring to determine it's lineage.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Jeweller's loupe
  • Pen
  • Paper

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  1. 1

    Examine the inside of the ring using a jeweller's loupe, or magnifying glass. Write down any words or numbers that appear inside the ring. Copy or write a description of any stamped images that appear inside the ring.

  2. 2

    Translate the numbers and abbreviations. Numbers are used inside of jewellery to indicate the materials the jewellery was made out of. If you see "900" or "925" this indicates that the ring is primarily made out of silver. If you see "Plat" or "IridPlat" the ring is made from mostly platinum. If you see "14k," "18k," or "24k" the ring is made out of gold.

  3. 3

    Use the symbols to determine the country of origin. Unlike Europe, the United States doesn't require jewellers to register their wares with an assay's office. (The assay's office certifies the authenticity of the materials used in the jewellery piece.) If, for instance, there is a pictograph or symbolic stamping inside the cameo ring, it is likely that the piece was created in an European country. Specifically, if you see a eagle, boar or wolf head, the piece came from France. If you see an anchor, panther head, castle or complex rosette, the piece came from the United Kingdom. These are the two countries which are most likely to have exported cameo rings for sale in the United States. Other cameo rings exported to the United States are likely not made with authentic materials, so you will not see assay office markings.

  4. 4

    Use unique markings to identify the specific jeweller. Famous jewellers such as Cartier and Bulgari have specific, unique hallmarks which are consistently used on all their jewellery. In addition, English silversmiths often had unique hallmarks which they stamped onto their wares in addition to the purity and origin markings. If you are seeing a third engraved or stamped marking on the inside of the cameo ring in question, you may have a very precious antique on your hands, and you'd do well to have it appraised.

Tips and warnings

  • If you are having trouble identifying the engravings or hallmarks, a certified jewellery appraiser can help you.

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