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0 Hallmarking of Silver and Gold Jewellery

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Hallmarking of Jewellery

Hallmarking puzzles most people. They don’t know what the symbols stand for or why jewellery has to be hallmarked. When our customers ask about hallmarked silver and we tell them that ours is “pure silver , 999 standard” they look puzzled because most people assume that sterling silver is the “ultimate” standard and can’t understand that there are higher grades of silver than sterling. We usually have to take down our hallmarking poster and give a sermon on hallmarking!

Amazingly , hallmarking has been around since early times. Edward 1 of England passed an act in 1300 establishing sterling silver and making marks on each piece of jewellery with a punch compulsory.

So how can you tell if your jewellery is hallmarked? You’ll probably need a magnifying glass like the ones you’ve seen jewellers with , stuck in their eyes as they closely examine a piece of jewellery. If you can only see a mark saying “925” then that’s not a hallmark in the UK. It’s just a “control mark” put there by the manufacturers to indicate that they think it’s sterling silver. But to comply with the law there has to be a mark made by the Assay Office. In the UK this will be a mark with 3 symbols : firstly a mark (say 999 ) denoting the type of metal and its quality , secondly the maker’s mark (ours is JC ) and finally the year of marking.

But even if there’s no proper hallmark , don’t worry! Your jewellery could be too light to be hallmarked. Most silver jewellery is very light – earrings , for instance. If silver is less than 7. 78 grams it doesn’t have to be hallmarked. Gold less than 1 gram is exempt and with platinum it’s less than half a gram. This is to save costs – hallmarking can be expensive.

So how do jewellers get a hallmark? Well , you buy some silver or gold , make something with it and if the final piece is over 7. 78 grams or whatever , you have to send it off to the Assay Office of your choice. In the UK you can choose from London , Birmingham , Sheffield or Edinburgh. They are all independent and actively “tout” for business. We deal with Birmingham but have had reps from other Assay Offices visit us at Trade Shows and try to charm us. . .

You have to register with an Assay Office and have your own mark and leave your stamp with them. In addition , every time you sell your jewellery , even in a street market , you have to display an Assay Office poster. It’s not unknown for Trading Standards officials to visit exhibitions to check your status and see if you are complying with the act.

The main thing to remember about the hallmark is that the numbers (eg 925 ) are out of a thousand so the higher the number , the better the grade of metal. With sterling silver , this means that 75 parts out of a thousand is not silver – it is copper , which is added to make the pure silver easier to work with by hardening it. Pure silver is quite soft. Most of the silver we work with is 999 – fine pure silver which is quite a different colour to sterling silver because there is nothing added to it.

With gold , much more base material is added. 9 carat gold for instance is hallmarked 375 because it is only 37. 5% gold. 18 carat is 75%. as you can imagine pure gold is very expensive and you can see why it has to be diluted!

For examples of gold and silver jewellery visit the Zinnia Jewellery website

www. zinniajewellery. co. uk

John Cartman is the co-owner of Zinnia Jewellery and sells gold and silver jewellery at fairs and exhibitions in the UK.
Copyright J. Cartman 2008www. zinniajewellery. co. uk
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