What is Hallmarking?

First and foremost I must state that I am not an expert and the information here is only based on my own experience. You can find out a lot more about hallmarking on one of the Assay office websites. There are four Assay offices in the UK, London, Birmingham, Sheffield and Edinburgh, I chose to use the Birmingham one as I could drive there without too much hassle if I needed something done urgently.

While I was browsing in the V&A museum (such an inspiring place, I highly recommend it if you’ve never been) I came across a plaque on the wall which explains why hallmarks were invented. (The photo I took wasn’t of the best quality so I’ve copied out the wording here).

“Silver and gold have been used as currency for centuries. Ancient civilisations introduced coins made of precious metals to make trading simpler.

Testing and guaranteeing the quality of silver in coins was important, since their worth largely depended on the value of the metal. The same was also true for silver objects. In England, kings and queens made laws to establish and maintain a minimum standard of 9.25% silver in coins and objects. This is known as the ‘sterling standard’. In 1327 the Goldsmiths Company of London became responsible for testing and marking silver. Punishment was fierce for those who ignored the standard and when two London goldsmiths were caught selling falsely marked silver in 1597, they were fined, imprisoned and each had an ear sliced off.

The legal standard of silver can vary between countries but 9.25% is the most common. Special marks guarantee it is of the required standard. The symbols show where and when an object was assayed or tested. In the UK silver can be tested and marked in Birmingham, Edinburgh, London and Sheffield”

I don’t think the punishments today are quite so barbaric but there are strict laws about selling precious metals. With regards to silver, any item over 7.78g cannot be described as silver unless it has been hallmarked by an Assay office. Gold items over just 1g must be stamped.

Now, hallmarking is an expensive and timely business so although all my pieces are made with the same sterling silver I choose to mostly just have items of 7.78g and over stamped. This means I can keep the cost of the smaller items down so they are still affordable and I can get small made-to-order pieces out to my customers nice and quickly but if you would prefer to have a smaller item marked or if you have any questions please do message me to ask. My items are stamped or lasered with my maker's mark which is my initials, GM inside a diamond shape and then the other marks required by the law as shown on the official hallmarking poster.

Posted by Gill Melly on April 20th 2021

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