As precious metals are not used in their purest forms, often for durability or tarnishing reasons, this mark allows individuals to identify the purity percentage within a piece of jewellery in order to determine its value. It’s more commonplace to find metal jewellery as an alloy (two or more metals combined) in order to increase the longevity of the piece and protect the metal from unsightly tarnishing.
Hallmarking in the UK
Hallmarking was first introduced as a concept in 1238 when Henry III made an attempt to regulate the standard of gold and silver wares. Over time, it was standardised to the UK hallmarking requirements that are recognised today.
For some time, marks were required but didn’t have a standardisation. This wouldn’t come into force until 1973 when Royal Assent consolidated the existing hallmarking statutes into a single act - the 1973 Hallmarking Act.
The 1973 Hallmarking Act makes it unlawful to describe an item over a certain weight as gold, silver or platinum without an independently applied hallmark.
l All silver articles weighing more than 7.78 grams must be hallmarked
l All gold articles weighing more than 1 gram must be hallmarked
l All platinum articles weighing more than 0.5 grams must be hallmarked
The “Who, What, Where and When” of Hallmarking
Precious metal wares often feature several hallmarks on the inner face. These identify the who, what, where and when of that particular piece and vary depending on the base metal used.
This is known as the sponsor’s or maker’s mark. This mark is the registered mark of the person or company who made or submitted the items for testing and marking. In the case of Tateossian jewellery, “RT” represents the name of our designer and founder, Robert Tateossian.
This is known as the purity mark and describes the precious metal content, expressed in parts per thousand. There is a differently shaped shield for each precious metal; a rectangle with shaved corners indicates gold, an oval for silver or a ‘house-shape’ for platinum.
This is known as the Assay Office Mark and tells the purchaser where the item was tested. There are four UK Assay Offices - Edinburgh (Castle), London (Leopard), Sheffield (Rose) and Birmingham (Anchor).
Also called the ‘Date Letter’, this is a stamped letter that indicates when the piece was manufactured and quality checked. Since 1998, the date letter was made optional, but it is still a common hallmark to find on plenty of jewellery wares. Some pieces are stamped with a number indicating the year end, i.e. ‘16’ for 2016, whereas others use a letter such as “M” for 2011, “N” for 2012, and so on.
UK Gold Hallmarks Guide
Gold jewellery pieces feature another hallmark known as the Crown or Gold Standard Mark. This mark only features on UK wares manufactured after 1798, when the Gold Standard Mark was introduced. The hallmark can be found on all UK hallmarked gold of 9, 14, 18 and 22 carats, in addition to old pieces of 12 and 15-carat gold manufactured between 1798 and 1932.
World Gold Hallmarks
While some countries don’t have a standardised hallmarking system and completed wares are not required to be hallmarked by law, many other countries have their own set of hallmarking standards and the hallmark you find on a gold piece manufactured in another country will have a different stamp or set of markings.
Attempts have been made towards an international standardised hallmarking system, however, differing countries allow differing amounts of fineness tolerances, which makes the process difficult, if not impossible.
European countries that signed the Vienna Convention recognise a standardised mark known as the Common Control Mark (CCM) which details the material’s fineness. The images used for the CCM include:
Gold – Balanced scales on two intersecting circles
Silver – A stamp in the shape of the Latin letter ‘M’
Platinum – Diamond shape
The United Kingdom Assay Offices joined forces to launch a commemorative hallmark to celebrate HM The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012. Known as the Diamond Jubilee Mark, this special commemorative mark, approved by the British Hallmarking Council, depicts a young Queen Elizabeth wearing an oversized crown in a diamond shaped surround.
In the history of hallmarking, there has only ever been five other commemorative marks - one to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935, one to mark the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, one to mark HM The Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, followed by a mark in celebration of her Golden Jubilee in 2002, and then in, 2000, a Millennium Mark.