What is hallmarking?
Quite simply it’s a mark on a piece of jewellery that legally defines what the item is made from. It also shows who made it, where it was checked and sometimes more.
Under the 1998 The Hallmarking (Hallmarking Act Amendment) Regulations there are three symbols that are compulsory as follows
- The ‘sponsor’s’ mark’: who made the item of jewellery identified by also known as the maker’s mark.
- The ‘standard’ mark’: what is its guaranteed standard of fineness.
- The ‘assay office’ mark: the Assay Office at which the jewellery was tested at.
For example, my hallmark looks like this
The R&R inside the tiny tie fighter outline (yes, I did choose it because it looked like a spaceship from Star Wars!), is my sponsor’s or maker’s mark. That shows you it was made by me.
The numbers here indicate that the item has been guaranteed as sterling silver. It means that for every 1000 parts of material in the jewellery piece, 925 parts must be made of silver and no more than 75 parts should be a different metal. It breaks down into 92.5% silver and 7.5% an additional metal, usually copper.
The anchor means it was checked by the Birmingham Assay Office. There are 4 offices around the UK and it’s up to the maker who they register with. I chose Birmingham as it’s the home of the jewellery quarter and I went to University there in the 90’s.
The other assay offices are
- London – leopard
- Sheffield – rose
- Edinburgh – castle
Did you know….
Originally London was the only assay office and 250 years ago Matthew Boulton decided for various reasons he wanted to have an assay office in Birmingham. The Sheffield Cutlers’ Company also decided they wanted one too. While the legislation was being discussed in parliament, Boulton stayed at the Crown & Anchor Tavern in the Strand, a popular haunt for politicians. Quite how the decision was made is unclear, but it was probably the toss of a coin that determined that Birmingham, in the heart of the country and miles from the sea, adopted the Anchor as its symbol, whilst Sheffield took the Crown (subsequently changed to the Rose).
Why is it called "hall marking"?
Quite simply goldsmiths used to go to a HALL to have their items assayed and MARKED!
Do I hallmark all my jewellery?
Currently I only have items over the minimum weights hallmarked however I am planning to change that to have ALL my precious metal jewellery hallmarked. That way you know it’s from me and it’s gone through the assay office and confirmed as the precious metal I made it from.
is there a minimum weight for hallmarking?
For each precious metal there is a minimum weight requirement for hallmarking as follows
- Silver – 7.78g
- Gold – 1g
- Palladium – 1g
- Platinum – 0.5g
So, any item including those precious metals over that weight needs to be hallmarked. The law also applies to everything SOLD in the UK, regardless of where it may have been manufactured. All my silver jewellery over 7.78gm in weight is hallmarked so you know conforms to legal standards of purity.
Does copper need to be hallmarked?
No. Copper is a base metal, like brass, and not a precious metal like silver. Some of my items are mixed metal (made with copper and silver) and by law, if I want to describe them in any way as silver, I must have them hallmarked if the silver component is over 7.78g.
How does the assay office hallmark jewellery?
The assay office has various ways of applying the mark, either manually with a punch or via a laser engraving machine. The latter is usually the option I go for. You can watch this video to find out more about how they do this.
What does hallmarking mean to you as a buyer?
It means a lot actually! The UK is the only country in the world that has such stringent standards for their purity and rightly so. There are some unscrupulous jewellers out there who will take base metals and gold plate them. There is nothing wrong with this until they claim their item is solely gold and then they are essentially ripping you off! Other countries don’t have our rigorous standards or hallmarks and as such you don’t always know what you’re getting. You can guarantee that if my jewellery is hallmarked it means it conforms to legal purity standards and is what I say it is.
What does hallmarking mean to me?
I still remember the first batch of hallmarked items that came back from the Assay Office, and I felt like a “proper” jeweller. That might seem strange coming from someone who has been handcrafting and selling jewellery since 2020 but having those tiny marks really stops me having imposter syndrome. It’s not a hobby anymore, it’s a business. It also means that I can prove to my buyers that my jewellery is legally what I say it is.
I display my dealers notice at all my markets and I have a page on my website that tells you a little bit about hallmarking and displays the online dealers notice.
If this has piqued your interest you can find out more about assay symbols, legislation and history at Birmingham Assay Office’s website. Hallmarking and the legislation surrounding it may at first appear quite dry but it’s genuinely interesting. If you can go to an open day at an assay office like I did earlier this year I thoroughly recommend it.
Why not grab a piece of your jewellery and a magnifying glass now and have a look to see who made it, what it’s made from and where it was marked?!