When I started making silver jewellery here in London I was quite surprised to discover the mysterious world of Hallmark.
I was surprised because it added a mandatory extra cost on my pieces that as a newbie I hadn't considered.
The hallmark consists in a series of symbols and numbers that are stamped on precious metals by a public authority who is going to test the metals and certify his authenticity.
In Italy we don't have such a thing. Sure, the precious metals are marked, but it's the maker itself who is registered as certified goldsmith and takes the responsibility to certify the purity of the metals.
In the UK all the items made in precious metals that are sold to the public need to have an hallmark stamped from a third part, like the Goldsmiths’ Center in London. As a maker, you need to register your company with them, and when you have an item to hallmark you send it to them, they then run a series of tests on the metal before applying the marks either with a laser or a metal punch.
All the items need to be hallmarked?
Luckily no, it depends on their weight.
Silver items whose weight is less than 7.78 grams could be legally sold as such even without the hallmark.
For gold the limit weight is 1 grams, so everything less than 1 grams could be sold as gold without the mark, everything over than 1 grams needs to have the hallmark to be sold.
In case of earrings, they are considered as single item, so to be eligible for the hallmark they need to weight singularly more than the minimum weigh (for example, if I have a pair of earrings that weigh 10 grams together as a pair, but each one of them weigh only 5 grams, there is no legal need to have them hallmarked).The stamp 925 that you may find in some items is simply not the legal stamp, and it could mean two things: the piece weight was under the legal weight (7.77 gr) but the maker wanted to mark it anyway, which is fine, or the piece is wrongly marked (maybe imported) and the maker risks an expensive fine.
Does the hallmark influence the price of the jewellery?
Well, as a maker I would say (unfortunately) yes.
The procedure itself it's not free, it costs £14 up to 2 items, sor £18 for a pack of 3 items plus £1.10 for any extra piece added to the lot (those are the 2021 prices).
I would say that its price is almost irrelevant for gold items, where a small piece in the lowest carat of gold couldn't cost less than £150-200, but for silver jewellery this kind of extra cost it's not irrelevant at all and that's why for example I send a bunch of jewellery together, to make its cost distributed among them.
I cannot see the hallmark, why?
The hallmark is stamped very small (mm) and not so deep especially if it is made with laser. For example, the pic at the beguinning of this post has been taken with a macro lens, so it’s actually a magnified image. Often the hallmarks are made in jumprings or earwire, so in the case of the earrings not only the hallmarks are difficult to spot, but also they are prone to disappear due to the rub off of the butterfly on the wire.
What about imported jewellery or plated ones, do they need to be hallmarked?
For plated jewellery, it depends on which metal is making the base of the piece. Is it silver? Does it weigh more than 7.78 grams? Then yes, the piece needs to be hallmarked as silver. The gold itself no, the layer of it in the plating is so thin that it’s very improbable that it’s going to weigh more than 1 grams (the same goes for base metal jewellery gold plated: they don’t need the hallmark).
For import jewellery, the law applies to everything SOLD in the UK , regardless of where it may have been manufactured.
Hope this post help you to better understand the meaning of hallmark.