Hallmarking is a form of independent quality control used initially on gold and silver, to which it dates back as far as 1300, and thus making it one of the earliest types of consumer protection in Britain.
Under current, contemporary laws, hallmarking is also compulsory for platinum articles too. Although there is potential for additional marks to be added at a later date, three marks must be applied with every hallmark.
The three markings that are found on an item are as follows:
- Who made the item - indicated by the maker's initials
- The purity and type of metal - Known as the 'Fineness Mark'
- The location of hallmarking - the 'Assay Office Mark' indicates one of the four offices (Birmingham, Edinburgh, London, and Sheffield) where the item was tested/assayed and marked.
There are items which do not have a hallmark applied, since an item must exceed a given weight in order for it to be assayed. The weight for application of marking varies according to the metal that is used. In the three main metal categories, it is:
- Platinum - 0.5 grams
- Gold - 1 gram
- Silver - 7.78 grams
When we buy items that are new, they will be hallmarked appropriate to their weight. The only difference that applies to the hallmarking procedure and rules listed above is when purchasing from the second-hand area of our website. Due to shifts and changes in hallmarking laws over the years, the second-hand stock that we possess are all affected differentially by the law; due to their disparity both in age and nature.
Many of our items will be hallmarked, but due to discrepancies in the law, there are exceptions that allow us to sell an item as gold, silver, platinum even where there is no hallmark present.
The exceptions are period-specific, as listed below:
- Gold and Silver items made prior to the year 1920.
- Platinum items made prior to the First of January, 1975.
- Gold rings (excluding wedding rings), lockets, watch chains, thimbles and jointed sleeper earrings, made prior to the First of January, 1975.
- Silver lockets and watch chains made prior to the First of January, 1975
- All coinage
If any of these exemptions apply to any items that we may have in stock, that are not hallmarked, may subsequently be sold. Any items which do not have any appropriate hallmarking, and are not affected by any of the exemptions listed, may only be sold under the condition that we do not name them as gold, silver or platinum.
It is indeed possible to send such un-sellable items to assay, but we personally do not like to apply 'modern day' hallmarking to any pieces of a greater age. Therefore, although we may know of the type of metal that the item is made of, this is non-applicable, and the only description that we will apply to the item is a description of either white or yellow metal.