The History Of Hallmarking
The concept of Hallmarking itself dates back to Byzantine times, but wasn’t noticeable until the 1300s in the UK. King Edward l put a law in place requiring the testing of silver to ensure that the alloys being used were up to correct standards. He designated particular experts to be guardians of the craft. They would visit craft workers in their studios to do the testing. They were then responsible for testing work to verify that the silver had a silver content of at least 92.5%. Once this was ascertained the work was then stamped with a Leopard’s head. London assay office still use that symbol today since they adopted it in 1544.
King Edward III granted a royal charter to the Goldsmith’s Company, formally known as the Worshipful Company of Goldsmith’s in 1327, which allowed them to become a company. Which was then run out of Goldsmith’s Hall, which can be found in the City of London.
This is thought to be where the phrase Hallmark was born, but was not officially recorded as a term until 1721, gaining popularity in 1864 when it officially denoted quality. We can still offer that reassurance today.
What is Hallmarking?
The term Hallmarking describes the practice of stamping or ‘marking’ a piece of precious metal so the owner or purchaser knows what a piece of jewellery or metal ware is made of. This mark gives a piece of work authenticity. British Hallmarking regulations are quite stringent, meaning that if one wishes to sell a piece of jewellery or something made of precious metal it must bare a hallmark.
There are several ‘assay’ offices in the UK, generally makers would send their work off to the one most local to them. However, in recent years this has changed as you can use any assay office in the country. The assay office is the place where the work goes off to be assayed or tested for fineness. This can be done by a scrape test or a the use of an X-ray machine.
The image shows the five traditional marks that my work bears. The Sponsor’s Mark is special to each maker, as only they have it. The Standard mark tells you the alloy your item is made of. The Fineness mark is a traditional mark which also tells you the fineness, or alloy of the metal. Each UK assay office holds it own stamp, as mentioned previously London has the Leopard, Birmingham the anchor, Sheffield the rose, and Edinburgh a castle. The each year has a corresponding letter. 2019’s letter is u.
Everyone selling precious metals should have this sign on display: