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All About Hallmarking
Posted on: 09/01/2018
Have you ever wondered what those small engravings are on the inside of your ring? Perhaps you've seen some small writing on the back of your earrings or on the clasp of your necklace.
These tiny pieces of information are more commonly known as "hallmarks". Hallmarks are a requirement of the Hallmarking Act 1973 for gold, silver, platinum and palladium jewellery items that are for sale in the UK. Does this sound complicated? Don't worry! We're going to explain everything you need to know about hallmarking in this blog post...
Hallmarks must be applied by the Assay Office (more on this later!) and consist of three main parts; the sponsors mark, the fineness mark and the Assay Office mark. There are currently 4 Assay Offices in the UK, located in Birmingham, Edinburgh, London and Sheffield; each one with its own specific mark.
During the assaying process, the Assay Office will test the metal to find out how fine it is. Is it 9ct gold, is it 18ct gold? It's their job to find out how pure the metal is. Once they've found this out they'll stamp this on the piece of jewellery or metal through the "fineness mark".
Now we've covered the basics, let's learn more about the different markings...
Elements of a Hallmark
This image works as a great guide to hallmarking - you may have seen this already on our website or in one of our stores but generally, if you're unsure what mark means what, refer to this!
Here's a breakdown of the 3 essential markings...
The fineness mark will be the second mark that you see on your piece of jewellery. It tells you how much precious metal is in your item and is expressed in parts per thousand. This may seem complicated, but it's really not!
Refer to our points below to find out what the most common marks and their meanings are:
Silver metals are represented by an oval fineness shape. '925' is the mark for sterling silver, which means that 92.5% of the metal is made from pure silver, whilst 7.5% of the metal made up from other alloys. All of our silver jewellery is made from 925 sterling silver which means it will be marked with '925' (if the piece weighs over 7.78 grams). Legally, any silver item weighing under 7.78 grams does not have to bear a hallmark - see below 'Hallmark Exemptions'.
Gold metals are represented by an octagonal fineness shape. '375' is the mark for 9ct gold, which means it is 37.5% gold and 62.5% other alloys, '525' is the mark for 14ct gold meaning 52.5% is pure gold and 47.5% is other alloys and '750' is the mark of 18ct gold, meaning it is 75% pure gold and 25% other alloys. The higher the fineness mark, the purer the gold (and the more expensive the item will be!)
Retailers are unlikely to know the exact composition of the 'other alloys' in gold, however if you're looking at rose gold for example, a likely added alloy would be copper to get the rose colour and similarly, white gold is likely to contain some silver and other white alloys to ensure the white gold colour is created.
At F.Hinds we sell all these carats so our gold jewellery pieces will show one of these (if the piece weighs over 1 gram). Similar to silver, any gold item weighing below 1 gram does not have to legally bear a hallmark - see below 'Hallmark Exemptions'.
Palladium metals are represented by a trapezium fineness shape. The most common palladium hallmarks are '500' and '950'. '500' palladium contains 50% palladium and '950' palladium contains 95% palladium - palladium 950 is therefore the harder and purer of the two.
Platinum metals are represented by a pentagon fineness shape. '950' is the minimum mark of platinum which means that platinum jewellery is always at least 95% pure platinum, with just 5% of the metal made from other alloys - some pieces are marked with platinum 999 which means just 1% is not pure platinum. This is why platinum can command the very highest of prices. At F.Hinds, all the platinum we sell is platinum 950 which means that all our platinum jewellery will show '950' hallmarks.
The Assay Office Mark will be the third mark that you see on your item of jewellery. It displays where the item was assayed, so for UK hallmarked jewellery that'll be either one of the four assay offices; Birmingham, Edinburgh, London or Sheffield.
Hallmark ExemptionsItems that weigh less than a certain amount are exempt from hallmarking:
- Silver that weighs less than 7.78 grams
- Gold that weighs less than 1 gram
- Palladium that weighs less than 1 gram
- Platinum that weighs less than 0.5 grams
Finding the Hallmarks on your own JewelleryIf you're unsure of what fineness your precious jewellery is, or if you want to have a look to see where your item was assayed, you can use an eyeglass to look on your items and find out. Here's where the hallmarks should be on your jewellery:
- Rings - inside the shank/band
- Earrings - on the earring post and should usually be on the butterfly scrolls too
- Pendants - on the bail/pendant loop and also on the chain near the clasp if this is heavy enough
- Chains and bracelets - on the clasp
Want to see some hallmarks for yourself but don't have an eyeglass? Pop into your local F.Hinds store and ask one of our fabulous jewellery experts to show you!