Whilst it is legal in the UK for jewellers, goldsmiths and silversmiths to sell jewellery without a hallmark, certain precious metals such as gold, platinum and palladium require an official mark so that other experts in the field and customers can easily identify the quality of a piece. Under the Hallmarking Act 1973, you must hallmark precious metal goods should you wish to market them.
Read on for more information on hallmarking.
What is a hallmark?
A hallmark is defined as a mark that is stamped on precious metals as a way of certifying their standard of purity. Hallmarks are very detailed and specific, giving information about who tested the metal, on the behalf of whom and what conclusion was reached. The Assay Office mark, the sponsor’s mark and the fineness mark then convey the information that was gathered throughout the testing process.
The Assay Office mark
There are only four different Assay offices in the UK which are located in London, Birmingham, Sheffield and Edinburgh. The Assay Office will stamp an Assay mark on a specific item of jewellery to identify where the goods were tested and by whom.
The sponsor’s mark
This is the registered mark of the person, company or organisation (the sponsor) that submits the precious metal or article for hallmarking. Each sponsor must have their own mark that is formed from the initials of the individual or organisation.
The fineness mark
Arguably this is the most important mark within the hallmarking process as it indicates the percentage of the precious metal used in the overall alloy. The percentage of fineness is expressed as parts per thousands, for example, 925 silver (also known as Sterling silver) comprises of 925 parts of silver per thousand parts of alloy.
The hallmarking process
Hallmarking is most common for jewellers working with precious metals such as gold, platinum and palladium as a part of their trade; although anyone can have a metal item hallmarked if they wish to.
The process of hallmarking is relatively straightforward:
- Firstly, register with your local Assay office and pay the appropriate fees (remember that Assay offices work independently and if you want to register with all 4 offices, you will have to pay the fees 4 times).
- Next, you send the items you require to be hallmarked to your nearest Assay office.
- Here your precious metal goods will be awarded the correct Assay mark.
- Then, your unique and individual sponsor’s mark will be added.
- Lastly, the fineness mark will be stamped onto your item after the Assay office has fully evaluated the percentage of precious metals.
Things to remember…
Although the process of getting your precious metals hallmarked is easy enough to do, it’s not without risks. Precious metals are precious and therefore there is always a risk that your goods could be stolen during transit. Sending your precious metals to your nearest Assay office reduces the amount of time they are in transit and as a result the chance of something being stolen is minimised.
It is also important that you fully understand the pricing system of your chosen Assay office so that you don’t face any financial surprises. Remember that you will be charged per item, so for a pair of earrings, you will be charged twice.