British Gold Assay Hallmarks
Hallmarking and Gold Standards
Hallmarking is the application of a quality control mark to an article of precious metal. It is also called an assay or standard mark. They are usually applied after accurate independent testing by one of four UK assay Offices which are legally empowered to test precious metals and apply a hallmark to them. These offices are Birmingham, Edinburgh, London and Sheffield.
A hallmark indicates that an article has been independently tested at an Assay Office and guarantees that it conforms to the legal standards of precious metal content, known as the fineness.
A hallmark indicates at least three facts:
Who мейд the article (makers mark)- the initials of the maker What the metal is, and its purity — the fineness mark Where it was tested (Assayed) and marked — the Assay Office mark
The Leopard’s Head is the mark of the London Assay Office and has been in continuous use since 1300, when the Wardens of the Company were given responsibility for marking gold and silver wares, which passed assay, with the King’s mark of the Leopard’s Head. A handy guide to hallmarks from the different Assay Offices can be purchased quite inexpensively from your local bookstore.
The fineness of the precious metal content of jewellery and silverware is expressed in parts per thousand. Sterling silver is indicated by 925, which means it is 92.5% silver or 925 parts of silver in every 1000 of the silver alloy. The current legislation is the Hallmarking Act 1973. Following amendments to the Act in 1998 and January 1999, the sponsor’s mark, fineness mark and Assay Office mark remain compulsory. But the Date Letter indicating the year of hallmarking, which had been in use from 1478, is now a voluntary mark, as are the traditional fineness symbols, the Lion Passant for 925 Silver, Britannia for 958 Silver and the Orb for 950 platinum. Platinum was only recognised as a hallmarkable precious metal since 1976.
The standards of fineness are: