Hallmarking of silver and gold is one of the earliest forms of consumer protection, starting as long ago as 1238 AD.
A Hallmark is a stamp applied to an article of precious metals after test by assay, by an official Assay Office, to denote fineness of quality.
No article or part of an article is marked unless it is first assayed and found to be of the standard of quality required by law. Although the assaying and marking authorities are not government officials, they operate under full legal powers.
The British Hallmark is of unquestioned and unquestionable integrity as a guarantee of quality. It is accepted as such in every part of the world.
A complete Hallmark consists of three compulsory punch marks
|Sponsors Mark||Standard Mark||Assay Office Mark|
Hallmarks are usually punched in a row with the maker’s mark at one end or the other. The size of the punch marks can also vary from very small to the size of your finger tip. This depends on the size of the article and the maker’s wishes.
This consists of the initials of the person or the firm responsible for making the piece. Its main purpose is to identify the person responsible for manufacturing the piece.
Any trader may register a punch at an Assay Office and send articles for assay and marking.
The initials are usually surrounded by a shield and the Assay Office will only accept a design of the sponsor’s mark if it is distinct from that or any other mark registered at that office.
This guarantees that the quality of the item is not below the legal standard indicated by the mark.
|9 carat||18 carat||22 carat|
Assay Office Mark
This mark is generally based upon the arms of the town.
|London Assay Office|
|The mark of London is the Leopard’s Head. This has been in use since 1300.|
|Birmingham Assay Office|
|The town mark is an Anchor. It has been in use since 1773 to mark silver but in 1824 it was granted power to assay and mark gold items as well.|
|Sheffield Assay Office|
|Originally the town mark was a crown and started in 1773, gold items we assayed and marked from 1904 but from 1975 the York Rose was used as its Town Mark for silver, gold and platinum.|
|Edingburgh Assay Office|
|The town mark is a Castle with Three Embattled Towers on a Rock. It has been in use since 1485.|
|Dublin Assay Office|
|The town mark is Hibernia. This was first used in 1730 but between 1637 and 1807 the Harp mark was used as the town and standard mark.|
This is now an optional punch. A letter of the alphabet denotes the year in which the item was assayed and stamped. This is changed annually and is of a character, combined with a combination of shields of different designs to avoid duplication.
Up until 1975 all the Assay Offices used different letter and shield designs but on January 1st 1975 all the offices came into line with their date letter and started with capital ‘A’.
For More Information
If items are under a certain weight then they do not have to be legally hallmarked. The weights are:
Silver 7.78 grams, Gold 1 gram and Platinum 1/2 gram.