What is Hallmarking?
A series of stamped symbols applied to jewellery, to denote the purity of the metal in the alloy used, whether silver, gold or platinum. That's because pure silver, gold or platinum are almost never used for jewellery; instead they are mixed with other metals to produce more stable, durable or usable alloys.
In the UK, hallmarking is applied by the 4 Assay Offices - London, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Sheffield - after testing for the purity declared by the designer / maker. That's in contrast to many other countries, where the maker applies the metal purity stamp (and their initials) on their own initiative.
Why do you need a hallmark?
In the UK, the law dictates that any item sold as silver, over 7.8 grams needs to be hallmarked as such; similarly any gold item over 1 gram, and platinum over 0.5 grams.
What do UK Hallmarks look like?
Now you know what to look for
Remember to look for the strike marks when you are buying jewellery. The hallmarks are there to protect you, the consumer, from counterfeit items. Whilst the legal weight for unhallmarked silver (around 8grm) is quite high, lots of jewellery pieces would weigh more; especially necklaces or bracelets. And most gold pieces would weigh more than 1grm.
So don't be shy, just ask!
For more information, visit the Assay Office website.