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What's in a Hallmark?

Have you ever wondered why some pieces of silver jewellery are hallmarked, and some are not? Or about what information is recorded in a hallmark? The UK laws around hallmarking are very strict, and each piece of jewellery that requires hallmarking has to be sent to one of the recognised Assay Offices to be tested and marked. Despite my love for gold and silver jewellery, I was unaware of the strictness around hallmarking, and the variety of marks and symbols that make up hallmarks - I've certainly had to learn a lot about them since I've been making silver jewellery

Which metals are hallmarked?

The metals that require hallmarking in the UK are: gold, silver, palladium and platinum and all pieces made from these above certain weights must be hallmarked to be legally sold as made of one of those metals. For silver, all items containing over 7.78g of silver must be hallmarked (items below that weight can be hallmarked voluntarily if the maker chooses).

"A hallmark has three compulsory elements"

What does a hallmark tell us?

A hallmark has three compulsory elements, and can have some other, optional, marks too. The three compulsory marks that make up my hallmark are shown in the photo to the right of my hallmark on the back of one of my pieces. The three compulsory elements are:

1. Sponsor mark - this identifies the maker of the item. In my hallmark it is my initials (AF) in a particular frame.

2. The fineness mark - this indicates both the metal and the purity. In this item it is 999 meaning that it is 99.9% silver, also known as Fine silver (Sterling silver is marked 925, to represent 92.5% silver). Note: be aware, that just "925" on its own does not constitute a hallmark, and has no legal standing as a quality mark.

3. The mark of the assay office that hallmarked the item. In this piece it is an anchor, representing the Birmingham assay office.There are also optional marks that can be used, including date marks (each year represented by a letter in a particular style).

Optional marks include:

  • marks which indicate the year the piece was hallmarked,

  • traditional fineness symbols - these are symbols to indicate the various types of metal. For example, a crown to indicate gold.

  • a Common Control Mark (CCM) which is an international symbol indicating metal type and fineness.

So, now you can read your hallmarked jewellery a bit more now. You can find out more from any of the UK Assay Office websites (Birmingham, London, Sheffield and Edinburgh).

The details of hallmarking marks, and of exemption weights are shown in an official Dealer's Mark, which all sellers of precious metal items should display. You can find this on the Robin and Wren Jewellery website here.

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