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Hallmarking


 

The United Kingdom has some of the most strict rules for protecting consumers when it comes to precious metals. Unlike some other areas of the world, hallmarking is a compulsory, legal, requirement, with very few exceptions. The process of testing and marking precious metals in the UK is carried out by one of the four, UK, Assay Offices, all of which are independent so the results are unwaivering.Every piece I make and sell, that is required to have a hallmark, does. Sometimes I will even have a hallmark applied to pieces on the list of exemptions. Below is a short video on what a hallmark is. Lower down on the page is some more information.

Video courtesy of the British Hallmarking Council

All retailers within the UK that sell precious metals are required by law to display a copy of a "Dealers Notice". Below is the digital version for use on websites, but in shops a larger, more comprehensive version should be on display. This applies to all  businesses selling precious metals, including antique dealers and crafters, even if the articles are older or exempt. When I attend events I display the larger "in store" version.

The notice below shows what a UK hallmark should look like and it's constituent parts, these are;

Sponsors Mark: Which is usually the makers, importers or wholesalers mark. In my case this is the maker, me. Sponsors marks need to be registered with an Assay Office.

Metal Fineness Mark: Indicating the metal via the shield or stamp shape and the purity represented by numbers.

Assay Office Mark: The mark to indicate at which of the Assay Offices the article was marked.

In addition the following marks can be applied;

Traditional Fineness Mark: Such as the familiar Sterling Silver Lion, Gold Crown etc. I'm quite attached to traditional marks, so I always have them applied.

Date Letter: The style and outside shape of each letter is different for each year. I think it's a shame that this has been optional for the last 20 years or so as future generations may not be able to put a date to a piece that is integral to their history. I always opt to have this mark applied also.  I'm sure it helps to disguise how old some stock is, but I would still rather see a date letter.

There is also the Common Control Mark (CCM) which is a legal hallmark accepted in countries that are part of the international hallmarking convention. I don't tend to have this mark applied, but it can be applied for special orders.

The Notice also lists some of the exemptions that apply, like minimum weights. Any article that weighs less than the weights below doesn't legally need to be hallmarked;

Silver (800 silver, 925 Sterling Silver, 958 Britannia Silver and 999 "Fine" Silver): 7.78 grams.

Gold (375/9ct, 585/14ct, 750/18ct, 916/22ct, 990 and 999 "Fine" Gold): 1 gram.

Platinum: (850, 900, 950, 999 "Fine"): 1 gram.

Palladium: (500, 950, 999 "Fine"): 0.5 gram.

The purity is an indication of parts fine metal, by weight, per thousand. 9ct gold has a purity of 375, meaning that there are 375 parts of fine gold per thousand and 625 parts of other metals, or 37.5% gold and 62.5% other metals. For more information on what the other metals can be, please read this blog post. If an article is submitted for hallmarking and fails to reach the level of purity required for that carat, even by a small amount, say 749 rather than 750, it will be hallmarked at the next carat down (14ct gold/585). If it's submitted as 9ct gold (375), 800 Silver, 850 Platinum or 500 Palladium and fails that grade, it won't be marked.

In addition there have also been been some special marks such as the most recent Platinum Jubilee mark as well as others.

Type-B-Notice.jpg

Hallmarks are legal requirement in the UK, but they can also be used as a feature. Below are some examples of how marks have been applied in a more decorative way.

Custom Hallmark and Sapphire 3.jpg

Special Layout as per the clients request, with adjustments for legality by the Assay Office.

Jublilee Signet pair.jpg

Queen Elizabeth 2nd Platinum Jubilee mark. The rest of the hallmark is inside.

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Feature Hallmark.

For anyone wanting to know more about hallmarks and hallmarking, the links below might be interesting;

My Pinterest Board of interesting marks. Pictures of marks and resources I come across.

My blog post on basic gold alloys.

Birmingham Assay Office

Edinburgh Assay Office

London Assay Office

Sheffield Assay Office

Hallmarking Research Institute. Information and publications on UK and International Hallmarks.

Silver Makers Marks. One of my favourite resources for online UK hallmark identification.

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