Customers are often interested in the process and reasoning behind hallmarking jewellery and so we wanted to explain a little more about this. We will discuss why jewellery is hallmarked, how it happens and answer some of the most asked questions.
What is hallmarking and why is it on jewellery?
The London Assay Office has been hallmarking jewellery for over 700 years and this is where we get our gold and silver jewellery stamped with our unique Auree hallmark. There are four Assay Offices around the UK located in Birmingham, Sheffield, London and Edinburgh. The main reason that jewellery is hallmarked is because you cannot see the precious metal content of an item with the naked eye. In the UK, it is a legal requirement for the Assay Office to hallmark precious metal objects of a certain weight. By having a universal mark, this ensures customers know and trust what they are buying.
How do the Assay Office test jewellery?
In order to determine what an item is made of, the Assay office use a variety of different techniques. The main way they do this is by using X-ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy which causes no damage to an item and will usually tell them in less than 30 seconds. If they are unable to determine the full composition of the item, they will sometimes have to remove the surface layer to uncover the alloy underneath. If they are still unable to fully determine the composition using these techniques, sometimes they use traditional methods such as touch stone testing, cupellation, silver titration, and platinum and palladium testing using the ICP-OES (Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectroscopy).
Does all jewellery require a hallmark or are there any exemptions?
The hallmarking law applies to everything sold in the UK, regardless of where it may have been manufactured. The only exemptions are pieces which fall beneath the specified weight thresholds which are 1g for Gold, 7.78g for Silver, 0.5g for Platinum and 1g for Palladium.
Which Auree jewellery is hallmarked?
We follow the guidelines of the Assay Office and all 9ct or 18ct Gold items that weigh 1g or more and all Silver items that weigh 7.78g or more are hallmarked. Some of our 9ct pieces that weigh under 1g are also hallmarked. There are a few items under 1g that we choose to not hallmark (mainly due to aesthetic reasons) but can always hallmark these on request.
What does a hallmark look like?
The actual hallmark is a series of 5 stamps each meaning something different. For our Auree items, we have our unique AUR stamp and some items will be marked with LAO (London Assay Office).
The second mark, the lion, is known as the Fineness Symbol (which is optional) is added as a standard at the Goldsmiths' Company Assay Office.
The third mark, the numbers, are known as the Millesimal Fineness Mark and this tells you the quality, type and finest of the metal in parts per thousand. This numerical stamp was made compulsory in 1999 so will be found on all hallmarked items. For Auree, the most relevant numerical stamps are 925 for Sterling Silver, 375 for 9ct Gold and 750 for 18ct Gold.
The fourth mark, in this case the cat, is the Assay Office Mark. This identifies which Assay Office your item was hallmarked at. The cat shown in the example is the mark for the London Office.
And finally, the fifth mark is the date letter mark which is a non-compulsory mark so won't be found on all items.
What does the hallmarking look like on the jewellery?
We try to ensure that items are marked in a subtle place so, although we love the hallmark, we don't want it stealing the limelight. With gold pieces, we ensure the hallmarking avoids impacting the general look of the piece of jewellery. Hallmarking can be quite a feature on jewellery and so the smaller the item, the harder it is to find a place that will not be too visually impactful. The hallmark is therefore often done on the pendant loop or clasp area. For the heavier items, we try to have the hallmark lasered onto the item to avoid any damage or unsightly marks.
Where can you find the hallmarking on a gold ring?
The mark on a ring will be done inside the piece to keep the aesthetics of the ring as fabulous as possible (as you can see on the 9ct yellow gold ring in the image below).
Where can you find the hallmarking on a pair of gold earrings?
The nature of earrings tend to be quite light so if and when a pair of earrings need hallmarking (only when they weigh over 1g), the mark can usually be found on the post or back of the earring.
Where can you find the hallmarking on a gold bangle?
The mark on a bangle will usually be done inside the piece to keep the aesthetics of the bangle as fabulous as possible (as you can see on the 9ct gold bangle in the image below).
Where can you find the hallmarking on a gold pendant or necklace?
The hallmark on a pendant is often found on the jump ring and for a necklace, the mark is often found on the clasp for maximum subtlety.
Why are the Westbourne 9ct Disc Pendants not hallmarked?
We used to get these pendants hallmarked despite the fact that they are lighter than the requirement, weighing 0.9g. They were hallmarked on one side of the disc below the pendant loop (as shown in the image below). However, we no longer do this as several customers voiced that they preferred not to see the hallmark next to the engraving (especially if they had chosen an engraving for both sides of the disc). If you are in the camp that prefers a hallmark, we can of course always get an item hallmarked for you. If the jewellery is Gold, this is free of charge and if it is Silver, we just charge this service at cost (i.e. what the Assay office charges us).
Where can you find the hallmarking on silver jewellery?
Silver is slightly different to gold when it comes to hallmarking. Items that weigh 7.78g or more require hallmarking and anything that weighs below this, does not. As you can see in the image below, the hallmark can usually be found on the inside to keep the aesthetics of the item untouched.
If you would like to read more about the rules of regulations of the Assay Office, please find more information here: https://www.assayofficelondon.co.uk/hallmarking/what-is-a-hallmark
Image credits: www.theassayoffice.com