\r\nSales of fake and counterfeit jewellery have risen innumerably over the last five years, with one leading UK jewellery brand claiming to have successfully removed \u00a3200 million of fake jewellery in just 12 months.\r\nRetailers already signed up to Assay Assured include Links of London, Ortak, Monica Vinader and Clogau Gold.\r\nAssay Assured's launch means that for the first time online jewellery retailers, from big brands to independents, can prove they are accredited. The hallmark is the oldest form of consumer protection and, now it has gone digital, online retailers can show their customers that they adhere to a strict code of conduct centred around compliance with the Hallmarking Act, and are backed by the Edinburgh Assay Office.\r\nResearch by the Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG) has found that displaying a trust mark, such as Assay Assured, increases sales by an average of 16 per cent.\r\nAndy Mulcahy of the IMRG remarked: "Trust remains one of the key elements that determine whether a consumer will shop with an online retailer. The Assay Assured scheme will greatly improve confidence in jewellery sites by communicating to consumers that the retailer is compliant with a code of conduct that ensures the products advertised meet industry standards."\r\nAccording to IMRG figures, UK online retail sales rose to \u00a35.8 billion in March 2012, however trust issues mean that shoppers are far more likely to buy with 'big names' rather than independent or auction sites.\r\nScott Walter, CEO of Edinburgh Assay Office, explained: "UK hallmarks have provided consumer protection for hundreds of years by guaranteeing the precious metal content in a piece of jewellery. Today online shoppers have no way of checking whether a piece of jewellery is hallmarked or not. Assay Assured is a digital solution to an ancient problem and we believe it will provide the protection consumers look for online. The issue of fake and counterfeit jewellery online is plaguing the industry and honest retailers are suffering because online sales often circumvent existing regulation and consumer protection."\r\nAssay Assured will carry out an audit of online retailers' websites before accrediting them. Members of the scheme will need to pay an annual fee for administration of the scheme, starting at \u00a3125 (dependent on the estimated average number of monthly online transactions).