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What does the Hallmark on your jewellery mean?

Updated: Jul 6, 2022





Why do we need Hallmarks and what are Assay Offices?

Both are there primarily to protect consumers from being sold items which are not make of real precious metals. The Assay Office tests the purity of items sent to them by the makers and if they confirm with the legal requirements for purity, the Assay Office marks it with the appropriate hallmark.


Any article described as being wholly or partly made of gold, silver, platinum or palladium that is not covered under exempt articles, needs to carry a hallmark.


Main Exemptions:


Articles below a certain weight are exempt from hallmarking. The exemption weight is based on the weight of the precious metal in the article, excluding, for example, diamonds, stones etc., except in the case of articles consisting of precious metal and base metal in which case the exemption weight is based on the total metal weight:


• Silver 7.78 grams • Palladium 1.0 gram • Gold 1.0 gram • Platinum 0.5 grams



Any pre-1950 item may now be described and sold as precious metal without a hallmark, if the seller can prove that it is of minimum fineness and was manufactured before 1950.


The Assay Offices of the United Kingdom


There are 4 Assay Offices in the UK:






They each have their own Assay Office town mark:


So if your piece carries a hallmark it will have one of these if it was hallmarked in the UK by one of these offices.


There were other offices in the past which were closed, leaving just the four:


Historic assay offices


  • Chester (closed 24th August1962)

  • Exeter (closed 1883)

  • Glasgow (closed 31st March 1964)

  • Newcastle (closed 1884)

  • Norwich (closed 1702)

  • York (closed 1858)


The Purity Markings


The most common hallmark is meant to tell you an item's precious metal purity. The first thing you want to look for is the shape of the stamp. A rectangular shape with the corners shaved off will tell you immediately that the item is gold. An oval stamp would indicate the item is silver. A 'house' shaped mark is used for platinum items.


The number inside the shape is called the millesimal stamp number - this will tell you the actual precious metal content or the purity of the precious metal. Please note - different countries may have different hallmarking standards so the marking you see on your items may differ. Below are some common purity hallmarks:




These markings correspond to different purities in gold, silver and platinum:


Gold Purity Stamp

Purity

Silver Purity Stamp

Purity

Platinum Purity Stamp

Purity

375

9ct (37.5%)

800

80% pure silver

850

85% pure platinum

585

14ct (58.5%)

925

92.5% pure silver

900

90% pure platinum

750

18ct (75%)

958

96.8% pure silver

950

95% pure platinum

916

22 ct (91.6%)

999

99.9% pure silver

999

99.9% pure platinum

990

24ct (99%)

999

24ct (99.9%)


Hallmarks can be confusing!


British hallmarks date back to medieval times. In 1757 counterfeiting hallmarks was made a felony and punishable by death! Traditionally, common control marks consisted of four punches: maker or sponsor mark, proportion of precious metal or fineness mark, assay office and the year of testing.

Since 1998 the date letter has become optional but the other three symbols remain compulsory. The symbols give the following information:


· who made the article

· what is its guaranteed standard of fineness

· the Assay Office at which the article was tested and marked

· the year in which the article was tested and marked




This is a typical hallmark you will find on my work if you look close up! Here I will take you through each of the parts of the hallmark.


Some marks are compulsory and others not so. The second and fifth are optional but I always have the full hallmark applied if the piece is over the weight where a hallmark is required.


The first mark is the Maker’s mark tells you who made the piece. My maker’s mark (PA) is held at the London Assay Office.


The next marks tell you what the piece is made of - it’s fineness. The walking lion (passant) is the traditional fineness mark for silver and is optional. The next is the Millesimal fineness sterling silver and is compulsory - the 925 indicates the purity eg for every 1000 parts of the metal used 925 of them are silver.


Pure silver is rarely used for jewellery making as it is very soft and wouldn’t be durable enough. Generally, sterling silver or 925 is used.


The last letter denotes the year it was hallmarked. The ’t’ was used in 2018. This too is optional.


Commemorative Marks


There are extra marks which have been added to pieces during times of celebrating our Queen’s rule:


Past commemorative marks from the top:


1935 Silver Jubilee


1953 Coronation


1977 Silver Jubilee


2000 Millennium,


2002 Golden Jubilee


2012 Diamond Jubilee



We now have the 2022 Platinum Jubilee mark which I have had added to my Jubilee Edition of the Chelsea Collection. This mark can still be added until the end of 2022.




New Development for 2022:


If you sell jewellery in a bricks and mortar store, it is a legal requirement to display a dealer’s notice.


This October sees the launch of a new format for the dealer’s notice, a new digital asset explaining the vital information contained in a hallmark and a new campaign encouraging jewellers to give high visibility to the importance of hallmarking online.


The U.K. jewellery industry has a long and distinguished history and contributes extensive employment opportunities and over £8 billion to the U.K. economy.

The primary protection for those selling precious metals and their customers is the Hallmarking Act 1973 which sets standards and marketing requirements for the sale of Gold, Silver, Platinum and Palladium jewellery and other articles. There are three main areas with which jewellers need to comply when selling online:


1. Hallmarking compliance

2. Accurate product descriptions for consumers

3. Hallmarking information for consumers / Dealers Notice display.


The Dealers Notice provides consumer information to identify the integrity of product through the Hallmark.


I send pieces to be hallmarked if they are made from gold or silver pieces (over 7.78 grams), or a bespoke piece where a hallmark is desired.


Those sterling silver pieces which are under 7.78 g I have a unique stamp (as agreed with the Assay Office) with which I can punch my makers mark and 925 to signify its purity.

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