What does a hallmark look like?
A hallmark can only be applied by an independent Assay Office.
A Hallmark is made up of 3 compulsory symbols:
The Sponsor’s or Maker’s Mark – This indicates the maker or sponsor of the article. In the UK this mark consists of at least two letters within a shield. No two marks are the same.
Metal and fineness (purity) Mark – Indicates the precious metal content of the article and that it is not less than the fineness of the article indicated. The fineness is indicated by a millesimal number (parts per thousand) and the metal type is indicated by the shape of the surround.
Assay Office Mark – Indicates the particular Assay Office at which the article was tested and marked.
If the mark does not have at least three symbols then it is not a hallmark.
In many cases the manufacture may stamp a number inside to state the purity. This is not a hallmark.
Why is the hallmark important?
Traders who wish to sell precious metal jewellery, ie Platinum, Gold or Silver in the UK must follow the rules laid out by law in the Hallmarking Act 1973.
For the manufacture of jewellery and silverware precious metals are not used in their purest forms. Instead they are mixed with other metals like zinc and copper, known as base metals. The resulting mixture is what is called an alloy. This is done to give greater strength, durability or a particular colour to the metal.
It is not possible to discern by sight or by touch how much precious metal, if any, is present in an alloy. It is therefore a legal requirement, in the UK, to hallmark all articles consisting of gold, silver or platinum (subject to certain exemptions) if they are to be described as such.
Precious metal is expensive. If you buy an item which contains less precious metal than it should, then you are being cheated. The hallmark is your guarantee so you know what you are buying.
It is an offence under the UK Hallmarking Act 1973 for any person in the course of trade or business to:
– Describe an un-hallmarked article as being wholly or partly made of gold, silver or platinum.
– Supply or offer to supply un-hallmarked articles to which such a description is applied.
What needs to be hallmarked?
Any article described as being wholly or partly made of gold, silver or platinum that is not covered under exempt articles.
Articles below a certain weight are exempt from hallmarking. The exemption weight is based on the weight of the precious metal content only, excluding, for example,weight of 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
– Gold 1.0 grams
– Platinum 0.5 grams
Information from the Edinburgh Assay Office.