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This History of Hallmarking article is provided by the Birmingham Assay Office.
The history of hallmarking dates back over 700 years to a statue instituted by Edward I. Its purpose then was the same as it is today – To protect the public against fraud and the trader from unfair competition. It is, in fact the earliest form of consumer protection.
Gold, Silver, Platinum and Palladium are always used as an alloy in the manufacturer of precious metal jewellery, watches and silverware. The precious metal is mixed with other elements to give it the properties, such as flexibility and durability to produce a desirable article.
Even the most experienced jeweller or chemist cannot tell, just by looking at it, how much metal there is in the alloy or whether a thick plating of precious metal is masking a base metal core. This offers the unscrupulous a huge opportunity for fraud and there is a need to protect the public and honest suppliers.
Therefore all items, over the minimum specified weight, being sold as gold, silver, platinum or Palladium in the UK must be hallmarked to confirm that they meet the legal standards of the Hallmarking Act, 1973.
Hallmarking must be carried out by a UK Assay Office or an Assay Office belonging to the International Convention.
The Birmingham Assay Office was founded in 1773. Over the past 230 years it has built an outstanding worldwide reputation based on its established expertise and its total integrity and independence.
The Birmingham Assay Office, having embraced the latest technological developments, is now the largest assay office in the world and the leading UK provider of a range of services to the UK jewellery industry.