The UK Gold Hallmark & Hallmarking
Dating back to the 14th century, Hallmarking is one of the oldest forms of consumer protection known in the UK. Hallmarking was introduced by King Edward I, and the name Hallmarking comes from activities started later in the 15th century when producers were required to bring their items to the ‘Goldsmiths Hall’ for ‘Marking’ hence the term ‘Hallmarking’. Since these times there have been many changes to the requirements for Hallmarking but the current practice of Hallmarking is carried out under the UK Hallmarking Act 1973. This article describes information related to the UK Gold Hallmark and UK Hallmarking related to gold only.
Why is Hallmarking Important?
In the UK, the presence of a full UK gold hallmark with all its mandatory Hallmarking components (see below) gives the UK consumer a guarantee that the item bearing the UK Gold Hallmark, having undergone Hallmarking at one of the UK’s 4 assay offices will contain as a minimum, the amount of gold depicted in the UK Gold Hallmark that in bears. For example, an item having undergone hallmarking which within the mandatory Gold Hallmark contains the number ’375′ will be guaranteed to be at least 9ct gold, or in other words at least 37.5% of the total weight will be gold. The remainder made up of the other metals alloyed within the item. Be aware that although an item may contain a number ’375′ within a marking, unless the complete set of 3 mandatory marks are complete within the gold Hallmark this will not constitute a full UK gold Hallmark, will have not undergone Hallmarking and thereby there will be no guarantee of the quality of the gold.
It is important also to note that Hallmarking undertaken outside of the UK may not have been required to comply with the same standards of the UK Gold Hallmark, and therefore may not guarantee a minimum quality. In the USA for example, items of jewellery submitted for Hallmarking under the American system prior to 1978 could legally be hallmarked as 14 carat providing they were at least 13.5 carat. These items would have been rejected under the UK Gold Hallmark system.
What does a Full UK Gold Hallmark look like?
Under the UK Hallmarking Act 1973 items that have undergone hallmarking with the UK Gold Hallmark must carry all 3 of the mandatory UK Gold Hallmark symbols and may also carry one or two optional markings. As an alternative to the UK Gold Hallmark, Convention Hallmarking can be undertaken and is explained below.
Mandatory Hallmarking Components
1. The Sponsors Mark
This part of the UK Gold Hallmark identifies the maker (or sponsor) of the piece. This will carry a minimum of 2 letters within the surrounds of a shield. Each Sponsors mark is unique to the maker.
2. Metal & Fineness Mark
Fineness is a term used to describe the purity of an item in parts per thousand. This is the recognised measure of purity under UK Hallmarking.Hersis displayed the purity marks applied to a UK Gold Hallmark for items that have undergone Hallmarking under the UK system. The shape of the mark denotes that the metal is gold.
3. Assay Office Mark
The final mark of the 3 mandatory UK Gold Hallmark components identifies which registered UK assay office the item was tested and marked by. There are only four registered UK assay offices which are allowed to undertake Hallmarking and their Assay Office mark can be seen here.
Optional UK Gold Hallmark Components
There are an additional two marks that can be applied to the UK Gold Hallmark. The first seen on the left here is the ‘Traditional Fineness Mark’, which identifies the type of metals, and the second seen below is the ‘Date Letter’, showing the year of manufacture.
Common Control Mark & Convention Hallmarking
In 1972 the UK became a signatory to the International Convention on Hallmarks, and is therefore the UK’s 4 assay offices are allowed to apply the convention hallmark as an alternative to the UK Gold Hallmark. Once the Convention Hallmark has been applied by any member country these items are legally recognised in the UK and do not have to undergo re-hallmarking with a UK Gold Hallmark. The convention hallmarking must contain the Sponsor Mark, the Common Control Mark, the Fineness Mark and the Assay Office Mark.
UK Gold Hallmark Compliance & Exemptions
The UK Hallmarking Act 1973 makes it an offence for any person in the course of trade or business to:
- Describe an article without a UK Gold Hallmark (or convention hallmark) as being wholly or partly made of gold,
- Supply or offer to supply an article without a UK Gold Hallmark (or convention hallmark) to which such a description is applied.
There are however certain exemptions that mean certain gold items do not need to carry a UK Gold Hallmark. The main ones are: -
- Total metal weight is less that 1 gram
- Pre 1950 item if the seller can prove that the item meets the minimum fineness and that it was manufactured before 1950
- Rings, except wedding rings, pencil cases, lockets, watch chains and thimbles.
- Articles consisting entirely of filigree work.
- Articles so heavily engraved or set with stones that it is impossible to mark
them without damage.
- Jewellers works, that is the actual setting only in which stones or other jewels
are set and jointed sleeper earrings.
UK Hallmarking on other Precious Metals
The UK Hallmarking Act 1973 also extends beyond the UK Gold Hallmark into other precious metals including Silver, Platinum & Palladium. These items must also carry the 3 mandatory hallmarking marks of Sponsor, Metal & Fineness and Assay Office, but are subject to varying exemptions. Below is the dealers notice as produced by the British Hallmarking Council which provides all the information you need in relation to the UK Gold Hallmark, other UK precious Metal Hallmarking and Convention Hallmarking.
Do you have any questions about Hallmarking or the UK Gold Hallmark please leave your comments in the box below.