What is Hallmarking? Why do we have it? Why should I care?
In the UK we have some odd laws (it was once illegal for women to eat chocolate on public transport!!) but we also have some fantastic ones that protect consumers - like the 1973 Hallmarking Act.
This is a law that helps to provide a guarantee of precious metal purity and honestly, who wouldn't want to know that their lovely shiny piece of silver wasn't going to end up being a chocolate wrapper (there may be a theme developing!).
So what are the marks?
When I make a piece of jewellery I add my sponsor mark. Thats the LJ in the honeycomb shape you can see. I then *have* to send it to be assayed if it is over a certain weight (7.78grams for silver, 1g for gold and 0.5g for platinum - there’s more about this here on my hallmarking info page).
I sometimes send underweight items as well - it's how I roll.
I send mine off to the Birmingham Assay Office (one of 4 in the UK) because it's my closest one & I like their mark :)
They test the piece to see if it really is what I've said, then they apply certain marks to it as a guarantee.
Come on with the marks already!
Ok, Ok - I'm easily distracted! You know how it is!
Back to the marks then. A UK hallmark is made up of 3 mandatory mark and can contain some optional marks.
The mandatory ones include a sponsor mark, a standard mark (which relates to the metal type - 925 is sterling silver) and an assay office mark.
The optional marks can be date letters, traditional fineness marks and a few others. You can see the marks from one of my pieces below:
Ok so why aren't these on every piece of jewellery I see?!
The law applies to everything SOLD as a precious metal (gold, silver & platinum) in the UK over the weight threshold (7.78g for silver, 1g for gold and 0.5g for platinum), regardless of where it may have been manufactured. Ok not everyone complies and that's their choice - but it is illegal and my conscience just doesn't allow me to flout any laws (although that chocolate one might have been a temptation!).
And, to be honest, I'm super proud of my work and my sponsor mark - my pieces come back from the Assay Office with that guarantee and are immediately more 'real' to me.
I hope you found this quick guide helpful - theres a lot more info and my dealers notice (Which should also be displayed wherever precious metals are sold - including online) on my Hallmarking Info page here.