Harriet Kelsall Jewellery Design

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18th January 2010 15:43



You may have noticed a series of tiny marks inside your engagement of wedding ring when you have taken it off; these marks are something which all of our commissioned or ready to wear precious metal jewellery will have on them somewhere, so I thought I would tell you a little bit about them.

Why do we need to Hallmark?

Pure Gold and silver are very soft and not sufficiently durable to be worn as jewellery, so other alloys are mixed in with the precious metal to improve the wearing qualities by making it harder. Before purity standards became law, goldsmiths used to stamp their own pieces with their individual mark. As there was no fixed standard and not an independent body to make sure a minimum purity was adhered to, many goldsmiths added more of the hardening alloy therefore considerably reducing the purity of the metal and cheating the customer. In 1300 Edward I ordered his civil servants to set out a statute to set standards to combat this problem, and British Hallmarking law was born.

Complete hallmarking

Something to be proud of:

Something which makes Great Britain stand out as being special from other countries selling precious metal objects and jewellery, is our strict and long standing hallmarking laws.

Most, but not every country uses a form of hallmarking, and the ones that do don't always have such a strict and complex system as the British one, so as a consumer buying British hallmarked goods guarantees the piece complies to a high standard of purity - and is what it is being sold as.

What is hallmarking?

Hallmarking is an accurate and official way of determining and recording the content/proportions of each alloy present within the precious metal being tested to indicate that they are of a minimum standard of purity. The Hallmark shows itself in the form of a series of official marks stamped, impressed or laser etched onto the metal, which act as proof/guarantee of the metal's purity, fineness and carat.

In the case of us here in Great Britain, a symbol denoting the place the metal was tested is also stamped.

Where is the metal tested and marked?

London’s Goldsmiths’ Hall of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths was where the word hallmark derives.

There are now only four places in Britain where hallmarking is carried out, they are the London Assay office (where we get most of our jewellery hallmarked), the Birmingham Assay office, the Sheffield Assay office and the Edinburgh Assay office

In former times there were other Assay offices also in Exeter, Norwich, Bristol, Chester, York, Newcastle and Glasgow to name but a few.

Each Assay office has it's own Assay office mark, also know as the Town Mark:

London Assay Office Mark
The London Assay Office operated by The Goldsmiths Company

Birmingham Assay Office Mark
The Birmingham Assay Office

Sheffield Assay Office Mark
The Sheffield Assay Office

Edinburgh Assay Office Mark
The Edinburgh Assay Office

(Hallmark office pictures from - http://www.thomas-skipton.co.uk/Hallmarks.htm)

Marks you will find stamped:

Metal and Fineness (Purity) mark:

The numbers stamped inside the ring refer to the carat ( carat in this instance is not a weight, it is the proportion there is of the precious metal present.

Silver can be marked as: 800, 925 (this is the most commonly used), 958, 999 (very soft and malleable at this purity).

Gold marks: 375 - 9ct gold, 585 - 14ct gold, 750 - 18ct gold, 916 - 22ct gold.

Platinum: 850, 900, 950 (this is what Harriet Kelsall Jewellery Design uses), 999

Date mark:

The date of assay is also stamped; the mark struck is in the form of a letter or a letter and a number. The type faces of the letter and if it is upper or lower case changes with each year cycle. Each assay office has it's own cycle of marks, starting with A through to Z. The letter will have a shape or shield around it as a background which also changes with each year, in order to distinguish the same letter used in a previous year cycle.

Maker's or Sponsor's mark:

This is the registered mark of the goldsmith or company that made the piece of jewellery. Harriet's makers mark is 'HK'.

Harriet Kelsall Jewellery Design makers mark

Commemorative Mark

This is a mark that is only struck on the occasion of a special event. Such as the turn of the Millennium, the silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary in 1935, the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, and her silver Jubilee in 1977.

Commemorative Hallmarks

If you would like to read more on British hallmarking you may find this site useful: http://www.theassayoffice.co.uk/current_hallmark_symbols.html

Hope this little insight has been interesting and gives you confidence to identify hallmarks stamped on your own jewellery.

All the best




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