Nerds? You ain’t seen nothing yet.
Welcome to the wonderful world of French warranty stamps.
Hallmarks are official marks struck on metal, to certify the amount of noble metal it contains – gold, silver, platinum, and in some places, palladium. But, more generally, ‘hallmark’ can also just mean a distinguishing feature. The French loved to use precious metals in eyewear – especially in the Upper Jura area, so it’s their hallmarks we know best and pay attention to. But there’s nothing secretive about it – you’ll find the same markings on a fork at the flea market as on the rarest of jewels. Y’know, eagles, wolves, swords…
When we discover frames from the first half of the 20th century, these will often be the only marks we can find. Back then, frames were rarely branded, with few logos or inscriptions. So we cling to these eagles and wolves instead, like in this extract from L’Annuaire de l’Optique de la Lunetterie des Instruments de Précision published in 1970 by Azur-Editions.
Les empreintes des divers bureaux de la Garantie se distinguent de celles apposées ailleurs qu’à Paris par le signe distinctif de chaque bureau ou différent, celles apposées au bureau de Paris par l’absence de différentAzur-Editions, 1970
Up until the 80s, gold was super common in eyewear (often 14ct, sometimes 18ct, ranging in thickness from 10/1000 to 40/1000), but after that we started to see a lot more platinum used. So along with telling us its quality, these hallmarks help us work out what a frame’s made of, it’s origins and when and where it was crafted.
If you’re interested in these stamps or other related collections such as jewellery or design, feel free to come and take a look at our archives at the store.