A piece of jewellery is one of the most priced possessions a person can have—they are precious and can be pretty expensive, with some even costing as much as a brand new car. It is only ideal that when you choose jewellery, whether for yourself or as a gift, you would pick the one that has the highest value and is guaranteed authentic.
Keep in mind that a piece of jewellery that is made of 100% pure metal is rare. Most of the time, jewellers would combine precious metals with other materials, which makes the piece more wearable, easier to work with, and more durable. Due to this practice, some countries require that jewellery should be marked to determine the percentage of precious metal present on the piece.
The Origin of British Hallmarks
Hallmarking was a form of consumer protection in old Britain. It was in 1300 AD when the earliest record hallmark came to place. King Edward I mandated a statute requiring that all sliver pieces must meet the sterling silver standard or 92.5% pure silver. The “guardians of the craft” must appraise these silver articles and mark it with the leopard’s head.
Meanwhile, King Edward III granted a permit to the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, which is more commonly known as the Goldsmith’s Company. This marked the beginning of the Company’s formal existence and paved the way for the opening of the official “Assay Office” in 1478 within the Goldsmith’s Hall.
Since hallmarking began, the leopard’s head has been widely used in different forms to symbolise the London Assay Office. Now, various countries have different landmark identity, ranging from Italian gold hallmark, American gold hallmark, Indian gold hallmark, among others. Hallmarking is not only for gold, but it can be used for different kinds of metals as well, such as silver or even antiques.
Hallmarks in the UK
Also referred to as an assay mark, a jewellery hallmark is an official mark or series of marks embedded on precious items made of metal. This is basically used to certify and authenticate the content of these metals, such as gold, platinum, silver, and most recently, palladium.
A hallmark means that the item has been independently tested and verified. It guarantees the origin that the article has passed a certain minimum legal requirement, what the item is made from, where the article was hallmarked, and who sent the metal for hallmarking. It also guarantees that the article conforms to all legal standards of purity or fineness.
Hallmarking is a requirement in the UK, which is one of the countries that have the strictest guidelines. Each precious metal to be sold in the market must be sent to one of the UK’s four Assay Offices (Sheffield, Edinburgh, London, and Birmingham), where employees will analyse and test each item for metal percentage and hallmark the piece.
There are three compulsory marks that makeup hallmarks in the UK:
Fineness Mark – indicates the percentage of precious metal content in the article and recorded in parts per thousand
Sponsor’s Mark – this is the registered or legal mark of the person or company which sent the item for hallmarking. These marks are all unique for everyone and have at least two letters.
Assay Office Mark – indicates that the article has been tested and hallmarked by the Assay Office
Buying hallmarked jewellery is safe—it guarantees that your item is authentic and worth the price. Some may not be hallmarked at all, and it is acceptable as there are certain articles that are exempted. Contact Jewellery Focus to learn more about precious metals and hallmarking.