All jewelry sold in the U.K. must have an official hallmark from one of the four Assay Offices. After being tested thoroughly through the assay office process, the hallmark is applied to jewelry to verify the purity of gold, silver, platinum, or palladium; this is called a purity mark.
This is primarily to protect consumers. There is a high risk of fraud due to the high price of precious metals. For example, a thick plating of gold could easily cover the interior of the bare metal.
Even the most skilled jewelers or chemists can’t see how much precious metal is in an alloy. Therefore, the U.K.’s Hallmarking laws protect both the public and honest suppliers against deceitful attempts to sell fraudulent jewelry. Anyone in trade or business can be charged with the Hallmarking Act 1973 of the U.K. if:
- Un-hallmarked articles described as entirely or partially made of gold, silver, or platinum.
- Offer to supply or supply un-hallmarked items.
All jewelry sold in gold, silver, platinum, or palladium must be sent to the Assay Offices located in Birmingham and Edinburgh, London, Sheffield, and London. The purity of precious metal items can be tested at these offices using three different methods:
- Sampling – The metal is collected using non-destructive methods such as X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometry machines.
- Assaying – This spectrometry technique is applied to random samples. The results are very accurate.
- Hallmarking – If there are no red flags in the tests, the hallmark is applied to the metal. The metal can then be legally sold as a precious or semi-precious metal.
Only a handful of countries around the world have made hallmarking mandatory. Any items imported from abroad that are to be used as precious metals must comply with this requirement. This process is only allowed if the metal sold falls below the legal weight threshold of 1 gram for gold.
How to recognize fundamental hallmarks
Three compulsory marks have been used to create a hallmark since 1998. These are:
- The unique signature of the individual or company.
- The standard mark which indicates the metal’s fineness.
- The assay office marks that show where the jewelry was tested, hallmarked, and certified.
- The year the piece was tested and marked until 1998. The date mark is now optional.
You should ensure that any gold jewelry you buy has a visible hallmark. This symbolizes quality and can only be applied by Government Assay Offices. You can be sure that any jewelry with one of these marks is authentic.
A jeweler will inspect or repair an item you have brought to them for inspection. They will first flip it over to look for a hallmark. Why? These tiny marks can help you gain a lot of knowledge.
Hallmarks or purity marks are official stamps found on precious metal objects. It indicates the metal’s composition and purity. A hallmark may also contain valuable information about the origin and manufacturer of the jewelry.
Two types of marks are common on jewelry:
- A hallmark indicates the type and purity of the precious metal.
- A makers’ mark is a symbol that indicates the origin or maker of jewelry.
A stamp must include the purity stamp to be considered a genuine hallmark. A maker’s mark is not considered a trademark.
The term hallmark, also known as purity marks or quality marks, is a shorthand to describe the type of precious metal in the piece. This stamp is applied by assay offices or the maker and ensures that the jewelry contains the guaranteed amount of precious metal.
Each maker’s mark will have a unique look unique to the artist. For example, the mark may be the logo of the company or the initials of the artist.
It can be challenging to trace a symbol back to its maker. In addition, some countries, such as the United States, don’t require that the manufacturer register their maker’s marks. Outside of the U.S., many marks can be found online for foreign-made jewelry and antique jewelry.
These are great places to begin researching your maker marks:
- Hallmarks Research Institute – An excellent resource for information about hallmarks and a list with links to sites that you can research your own
- World Hallmarks Volume I: Europe, 19th-21st Centuries
- Assay’s Office – anatomy of a hallmark
Why do we hallmark jewelry?
The maker takes responsibility for the authenticity of the jewelry by stamping it with purity marks and makers’ marks. A hallmark provides protection and assurance for the consumer and aid for jewelers who need to sell or repair the jewelry.
Hallmarks around the world
There are different requirements for jewelry that needs to be hallmarked depending on the country.
European countries have more rigorous standards for marking precious metal goods. A hallmark is required in many countries to make an item legal for sale. The assay office in the United Kingdom must stamp each piece with an additional stamp. This makes it legal for sale. The assay office mark confirms the piece of jewelry was inspected.
The United States does not require jewelry makers to stamp their work. However, it is still a good practice for consumer protection.
Although not all jewelry will bear a hallmark, they are helpful for jewelry to be appraised and for the consumer’s safety. We can help you out at AU Precious Metal Solutions!