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Jewellery Knowledge

What Is Hallmarking ?

Hallmarking is one of the oldest forms of consumer protection in Great Britain dating back to 1300's when Edward I instituted assaying (testing) and the marking of precious metals.

Hallmarking is a stamped mark applied to jewellery and silverware by the assay offices of Britain as a guaranteed mark of authenticity. The mark consists of four components: the sponsor mark; the standard mark which denotes the precious metal content of the item; the assay office mark and the date letter which shows the year in which the article was hallmarked.

Great Britain has four assay offices located in Edinburgh, Sheffield, Birmingham and London. In 2006 the Birmingham assay office handled over 12 million articles in one year becoming the largest assay office in the World.
Why Is Hallmarking Important ?

During the jewellery manufacturing process precious metals are not used in their pure form as they are too soft. Therefore a hallmark is a mark of authenticity giving you confidence that what you think you are buying is actually what you are. For example a hallmarked piece of sterling silver means that 925 parts per thousand of silver have been used with the remaining 75 parts being other metals Typically copper is generally used to give sterling silver strength whilst at the same time preserving the ductility of the metal and its beauty.

Yellow gold is graded by carats. The carat system for gold, unlike diamonds, is a method of expressing the proportion of gold to other metals in a particular alloy. Pure gold is 24ct. 22ct gold contains 22 parts of gold to 2 parts of other metals, while 9ct gold contains 9 parts of gold to 15 parts of other metals. The colour of pure gold is a metallic yellow. However, copper and silver are the principal metals used for gold alloy, though zinc, cadmium, iron and aluminium are also used. The refiner's problem is to reach a satisfactory compromise between working qualities and colour for each different carat quality.

All Sheenashona jewellery and sterling silver gifts are hallmarked in line with the Hallmarking Act 1973 that defines the marks that are stamped on an item when it has passed the assay office tests. The law says hallmarks must be 'approved'. Due to changes in the law, the definition of approved hallmarks has been extended to include hallmarks which come from countries within the European Economic Areas (EEA Marks). The Approved Hallmarks which are allowed are those which are stamped by an independent organisation according to the law of the member states. Articles do not have to be hallmarked if they weigh less than 1 gram for gold, 0.5 grams for platinum and 7.78 grams for silver. Articles are only exempt on weight as long as they are of the standard declared. Typically when you are looking for the hallmark on necklaces and bracelets they can be found on the o ring which is attached to the clasp.

Important Amendments To The Hallmarking Act 1973

Changes in UK hallmarking law have meant that European Member States have now agreed upon minimum standards of 'fineness' for articles made of precious metals. These changes are now in force throughout the European Union. In the United Kingdom, the regulations came into force on 1 January 1999

Changes to marks
• The regulations introduce two new gold standards of 990 and 999 parts of gold per thousand of metal.
• For silver, two new standards of 800 and 999 parts of silver per thousand of metal are introduced.
• For platinum, three new standards of 850, 900 and 999 parts of platinum per thousand of metal are introduced.
• You no longer need the date letter, which was previously compulsory for all articles other than those of small weight. However you can stamp it on if you wish.
• Standards of fineness must now be expressed in parts per thousand. However, manufacturers can continue to ask for traditional marks such as the lion, crown or orb to be stamped alongside the parts per thousand mark.
• The marks which were previously used to distinguish British goods from imports no longer exist. All marks are now the same no matter where the goods are from.
• The date at which an article is considered to be an antique and so exempt from hallmarking has changed from 1900 to 1920