What is a Hallmark?
A Hallmark is a legally required mark which has to be stamped onto articles of gold, silver, platinum and palladium. This is applied by one of the four independent UK Assay Offices after testing to ensure the precious metal content meets a recognised standard. This process certifies their standard of purity and is used to protect the consumer from dishonest traders from unfair competition.
What is the history of the Hallmark?
The Hallmarking Act 1973 made business transactions involving unmarked metals illegal, simplifying hallmarks so that they were easier to understand and recognise, and also tiding up many complexities in the laws of hallmarking in the UK. Trading standards departments were responsible for enforcing the act, with requirements still changing.
What does a hallmark consist of?
From January 1st 1999, the hallmark was required to consist of 3 compulsory parts. This includes the Sponsor’s mark, the Assay Office Mark, the Standard mark with also the use of an optional mark on gold, silver and platinum items.
As with all precious metals, Palladium jewellery would need to hold a hallmark declaring its quality and authenticity. This came into force on July 22nd 2009 and until 31st December this mark was voluntary. From January 1st 2010 a hallmark became a compulsory requirement for all Palladium articles weighing over 1 gram.
What is the Sponsor’s Mark?
This mark indicates the sponsor of the article who is responsible for sending the item to the assay office. In the UK this mark consists of one or more letters within a shield. No two marks are the same; if the initials of multiple sponsors are a like the background outline must differ. For example, if Rudell the Jewellers sent off a palladium ring to be hallmarked the sponsors mark would be “JJR”.
What is the Standard Mark?
This mark shows the metal content of the article. The fineness is indicated by parts per thousand and the metal type is shown by the shape of the shield surrounding these numbers.
What standard mark would I expect to see on a Silver article?
Silver is a bright, white metal which has been used in making jewellery, utensils and ornaments for thousands of years. The most common fineness markings you would expect to see on a sterling silver article would be ‘800’, ‘925’ and ‘999’ (‘958’ for Britannia silver) which would be surrounded by an oval shield.
What standard mark would I expect to see on a Gold article?
The most common standard mark that you would expect to see on an item of gold jewellery should be ‘375’ (9ct) ‘585’ (14ct) ‘750’ (18ct) ‘916’ (22ct) surrounded by an oblong with cut corners.
What fineness mark would I expect to see on a Platinum article?
Platinum has been around for many years but it wasn’t until 1975 that it became increasingly popular in the jewellery trade. The fineness markings for Platinum include either ‘850’, ‘900’, ‘950’ or ‘999’ surrounded by a 5 sided ‘house end’ shape. Previously only ‘950’ was legal.
What would I expect to see on a Palladium article?
Palladium joins gold, silver and platinum as the fourth recognized precious metal. This means articles cannot be sold in the UK without a statutory hallmark. The standard markings that you would expect to see on a Palladium article are either ‘500’, ‘950’ or ‘999’, surrounded by 3 adjoining circles.
The shield around the fineness mark on palladium jewellery that I brought a few years ago, is different to the jewellery I brought recently, why is this?
From July – December 2009; the first shield used for palladium was a trapezium, similar to the platinum shield described as a five- sided ‘house end’. There is a clear difference from platinum when the markings are perfect but over time the lines become faint and the hallmark becomes worn.
After many businesses raised concerns that the two metals could be confused, the four UK Assay Offices combined forces in amending the fineness mark to three adjoining circles, so all of the lines are curved. Despite this happening, the trapezium remains legal and there is no need to re hallmark anything.
How do you know what Assay office hallmarked an article?
This mark represents the Assay Office which the article was tested and marked. There are currently four Assay offices in the UK with four different markings. The Birmingham office holds an Anchor, the Sheffield offices holds a rose, the Edinburgh holds a Castle and the London Office holds a leopards head.
Are there any other markings that I would see?
There are other marks which are voluntary and can be requested by the sponsors. This includes the traditional pictorial symbol, the date letter and commemorative marks.
The pictorial symbol was compulsory up until 1998. These symbols include the Lion for Sterling Silver and the Crown for Gold. They may be struck on any articles of the correct standard.
The Date Letter is a mark that informs you of what year the article was tested and marked. Starting in 2000, omitting the letters ‘I’ and ‘J’, certa in letters of the alphabet are used varying in fonts and cases to established specific years.
Commemorative marks are occasionally introduced for example the Coronation mark of 1953 for Queen Elizabeth II and also the Golden Jubilee mark of 2002. The Millennium Mark to celebrate the year 2000 was very popular as it was applied to over 5 million articles of various jewellery and silverware.
By Charlotte Skinner