Can Jewelry Hallmarks Really Help You Verify Authenticity?
Since moving to Mexico almost seven years ago and working directly with Taxco artisans and shops, we’ve learned quite a bit about jewelry hallmarks as they pertain to Mexican silver accessories. We are by no means experts, but we’re happy to share what we’ve learned.
A great starting point to discuss jewelry hallmarks is the saying, “Things are not always as they seem.”
What exactly does this mean?
There are several Mexican silver jewelry reference books available about hallmarks. In general, most of the information out there was accurate when the book was published — however, many of these reference books are out of date, and even “revised” editions often contain little to no revisions.
Times have changed, and so have the meanings and general guidelines to follow for hallmarking interpretation, but the literature on the market has not. This results in a lot of confusion for avid collectors as well as first-time buyers of Mexican silver jewelry.
Let’s address what we consider to be two main jewelry hallmark discrepancies:
1. The Stamped Eagle Hallmark, Supposedly Denoting Vintage
At one time, jewelry with the famous stamped eagle hallmark would guarantee that a piece was made before or around 1976. This fact is widely found in reference books. It was 100% true at one time, but here is a big BUT as it pertains to today’s Taxco…
Did you know that you can go to several local “hardware” stores in Taxco and purchase whatever jewelry hallmark you would like?
There is literally a bin on the wall full of thick nails that have certain hallmark molds on the tip of the nail. Anyone can purchase these, make a brand new piece, stamp an eagle hallmark on the piece, and call it a vintage piece in pristine condition.
2. The “Letter/Number” Hallmark, Supposedly Indicating a Piece’s Origin
Several of the hallmark reference books state that if a piece of Mexican silver jewelry doesn’t have a famous letter/number combination stamped on it, then it is not verified as authentic Taxco jewelry. Here’s an example. I’m using random letters and numbers, so please don’t start scouring your collection for this hallmark for comparison!
Here’s a quick general breakdown of what this jewelry hallmark could mean:
•T: The city the piece was produced in — in this case, Taxco. You will often see “I” for Iguala or “M” for Mexico.
•C: The first letter of the last name of the artisan — for example, Cortez.
•49: The number the government issued to the artisan. He or she would have been the 49th person with a last name starting with “C” to register for tax purposes.
All of this information was correct at one time, and it still could be true, because some artisans and shops continue to hallmark in the exact manner they always have. But using a letter/number combination like this is antiquated, outdated, and becoming less true for a couple of reasons:
•People can hallmark jewelry any way they see fit (as already mentioned)
•The modern, revamped Mexican tax system does not require this technique at all
So if you were to visit all of the shops on the main streets of Taxco today, you will see pieces in each shop with completely different jewelry hallmarks. An item with an eagle hallmark could be a vintage piece that is at least 40 years old. However, it could be a piece produced the day before.
What Jewelry Hallmarks Will Authentic Taxco Pieces Have?
Some authentic pieces have a letter/number combination. You will also see pieces hallmarked with “Mexico 925” but no mention of Taxco. Some pieces are hallmarked only with “925.” Other pieces have nothing on them, not even a silver content hallmark (e.g., 925) — but they are all pieces that have been produced in Taxco.
Why is there such a variation in hallmarking of pieces being produced in Taxco today? (Again, we’re not experts; this post is simply based on our experiences.) For several artisans and shops, it’s simply about time and money. People don’t want to take extra time to fully authenticate and hallmark jewelry because it is easier not to do so.
Another reason authentic Taxco jewelry might not have a hallmark is that the artisan wants his or her pieces to appeal to wholesale buyers. A large percent of buyers visiting Taxco purchase pieces wholesale to sell in retail settings in the U.S. or elsewhere, and some try to pass off designs as their original creation. If a piece is hallmarked with “Mexico,” “Taxco,” or “tc-49,” it’s harder to add your own hallmark to a piece and claim it as your own. In this case, artisans can actually harm their potential income from a wholesale buyer if a piece is hallmarked.
The Bottom Line
To summarize, some authentic Taxco silver jewelry will have a hallmark with letters and numbers, and some authentic vintage pieces have the eagle hallmark. However, just because a piece has a hallmark does not mean it’s authentic, and conversely, a piece without any hallmarks could very well be authentic sterling silver from Taxco.
We hope that sharing this information will provide clarity, transparency, and empowerment for the avid Mexican silver jewelry collector, the first-time buyer, or anyone who is just curious and seeking more perspective.
We offer over 1,200 designs on our website, and you will find the full variation of hallmarks on these pieces. At the end of the day, they all have two things in common: Every piece was produced in Taxco, and every piece that we offer is at least sterling .925 silver in its content.
Have you ever seen hallmarks on jewelry? What were they?