Jewellery hallmarks are more than just an indent, they tell the history and legacy of a precious metal item.
Hallmarking is one of the oldest forms of consumer protection, so it’s worth looking for as this is your guarantee. There are three compulsory marks Silver, Gold, Palladium and Platinum items must have, if they are over their exemption weight.
The first mark that appears is often two or three letters; this is the Sponsor/ Maker’s mark. The initials indicate the company/ who put the item into circulation for sale, as it doesn’t always mean it was the person who made the item originally.
The quality of mental content is up next. Better known as the fineness, the number indicates the quality of metal within the item in parts per thousand. For example, an 18ct gold ring is marked 750, as it has 75% pure gold melted with alloys.
The third compulsory mark that an item must have is the Assay Office as this determines where the item was approved and hallmarked. In the UK, there are four offices in the major cities: London, Birmingham, Sheffield and Edinburgh. London has a Lion head, Birmingham is an anchor, Sheffield is a rose and Edinburgh is a castle. This mark is within a square chamfered mark, a square with the corners cut off.
Sometimes, there are jewellery and items with a different symbol; that’s because the item will date back further when there used to be more assay offices like Chester, Dublin and Newcastle.
After the main three marks, a maker can pay extra for additional marks. These include a date mark, commemorative marks such as the King’s Coronation and Millennium and the traditional fineness symbol. However, if an item is going to be exported, the piece must contain the scales of the Common Control Mark. This goes for items that are bought into the country, they must have this symbol.
Every reputable jewellery shop must have the Dealer’s Notice on display as this is a lawful requirement from the Hallmarking Council ‘Act 1973’, as this notice explains the approved hallmarks. This must be the notice produced by the British Hallmarking Council. A couple of years ago, the British Hallmarking Council made a new Dealer’s Notice that is ideal for the online environment.
Important note: silver items just stamped 925 and gold items that have just been stamped 375 are not hallmarks, so it’s not a guarantee of fineness.
Now that you know what a hallmark is, next time you gaze at your ring, hold your chain or look at a trophy try looking for a hallmark and think about the travels it may have had over the years to be in your possession today.