In the UK, consumers have been protected by hallmarking for almost 700 years. In 1999, the original Hallmarking Act of 1973 was updated to bring the UK in line with the rest of the EU, allowing this independently assessed guarantee to cover a wider range of purity grades (known as fineness).
Despite the updated legislation, a hallmark remains the official seal of approval, ensuring that the quality of your gold, silver, platinum or palladium jewellery is of the standard claimed by the seller – and of course, at Iain Henderson Designs, all of our handmade, bespoke jewellery carries the relevant insignia.
Why does it matter?
Items containing precious metals can represent monetary, sentimental and personal value – so you want to be sure that you’re getting what you’ve paid for. These marks of guaranteed quality clearly identify the purity (measured by the ratio of gold etc to the other metals contained in the item) and various other key details to show that they’ve been through the strict process required to earn them.
What they mean – your guide to hallmarks
Compare any two items of hallmarked jewellery and you’ll probably find that the marks are different – that’s because they consist of a variety of elements that each indicates a different thing. The main, current marks you’ll see on UK made jewellery are as follows:
The Sponsor’s Mark – this shows who sent the finished item for testing and hallmarking, and can be the manufacturer, importer, retailer or an individual who commissioned the piece. To obtain a sponsor’s mark, you have to register with, and be approved by, an Assay Office.
The Standard Mark – as you can see, each type of precious metal has its own allocated shape, and the number inside indicates the fineness, or purity, of the metal, calculated in parts per 1,000: the higher the number, the purer the metal. And usually, the purer the metal, the more expensive it is. Because all of our jewellery is bespoke we will work with you to identify both the right metal and the right purity to fit your design and your budget.
The most common metals and hallmarks we see in the Uk are 9ct gold (375) and 18ct gold (750), (990 and 999 are for almost pure gold and used rarely due to it being such a soft metal), 925 for sterling silver, 950 for platinum and 950 for palladium. 500 palladium is also regularly seen in on the highstreet throughout the Uk but we don’t work with this metal at our studio as it is not as good quality as the palladium 950. (Palladium 500 is made up of only 50% palladium with the rest of the metal being made up of other alloys.)
The Assay Office Mark – this shows which Assay Office tested and hallmarked the item.
Date Mark – the year that the item was made and tested will be represented by a letter.
Commemorative Marks – if the item was produced to mark a special occasion, it will also carry a mark to represent that event.
Traditional Marks – you might see these marks on older jewellery items, although they’re still sometimes used as a more traditional alternative to the newer stamps.
There are other types of hallmarks used for internationally produced pieces too – if you have marks on your jewellery that you can’t identify from the list above, a local merchant will be able to tell you what they mean.
Quality jewellery, no compromise
Regardless of your level of knowledge when it comes to the various stamps that make up an official hallmark, there’s one thing that’s essential to know: if someone’s tried to sell you an item of gold, silver, platinum or palladium jewellery and it doesn’t have a hallmark, they’re breaking the law, so don’t buy it!
If you require further information or advice, the friendly experts here at IHD will be happy to answer your questions – and if you have an item that you believe is of the quality necessary for a hallmarked approval, we can take care of that for you for a small fee.
Book your jewellery design consultation today…
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