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What are hallmarks and what do they mean?

Posted by Jo Wells on Mar 20, 2019 2:11:12 PM

burrells gold hallmarks

Have you ever wondered what those little etches are on your jewellery? Curious to know what the numbers and symbols represent? If you’re looking to decipher the jewellery version of hieroglyphics, then you’ve come to the right place!

This blog post will help explain what a hallmark is, what they all mean and why it is essential to have hallmarks on our jewellery.

 

Why do we have hallmarks?

There are a few reasons why we have hallmarks, however the overriding factor is because it gives our customers consumer protection. Hallmarks also cover situations such as when a silver item is gold plated, for it will be stamped and verified as silver even though it looks like gold.

Since 1973 it has been a part of UK law for certain precious metals to be stamped with official hallmarks. The metals that this refers to are:

• Silver

• Gold

• Platinum

• Palladium (added in 2009)

The hallmark informs us that the metal has been tested and evaluated at an assay office, and certifies both the type of metal and the purity of the metal in the piece of jewellery. This way you can have full assurance that the precious metal you are buying is legitimately that element, and can be confident in the purity of that metal choice as well. These hallmarks help to prevent fraud in the UK jewellery industry through this form of authentication.

 

How can i see the hallmark?

Hallmarks are often stamped on jewellery in a spot which is not usually visible when worn, such as the inside of a ring or on the back of a pair of earrings. This is so the markings do not deter from the final sheen and overall look of a piece of jewellery.

hallmarks on a silver ringAn example of how hallmarks can look - credit: The Assay Office

Although hallmarks are often visible to the naked eye, the tiny details are not always clear without the aid of a magnifying glass or jewellers loupe. jewellers loupeThis is particularly helpful when examining a piece of jewellery with very delicate craftsmanship, as the hallmark can often be difficult to spot!

 

What do the different symbols mean?

 

Assay Office

Jewellery is tested at one of the four UK government assay offices to verify the metal and is stamped accordingly. There are 4 UK assay offices, which each have their own unique hallmark signature:

Birmingham – An anchor

Edinburgh – A castle

London – A leopard head

Sheffield – A rose

the assay office symbols

There may also be a sponsor mark or maker's mark. This will be the initials of the firm sending the item to the assay office they are registered at, and they will have their unique mark put onto their jewellery to ascertain brand security and authenticity. 

 

The finesse mark

The standard and most recognisable mark is the fineness mark. This tells you the metal and purity of the item and is represented by a specific number within a specific shape. The shapes and numbers represent the following:

 

Silver

Oval SHape

Sterling silver uses 92.5% pure silver in its composition, so it’s hallmark number is 925.

sterling silver 925

Burrells only use sterling silver in our gorgeous silver jewellery, to ensure high quality pieces.

 

Gold

RECTANGULAR shape

Yellow, white and rose gold jewellery is commonly referred to in carat weights:

9ct gold is hallmarked 375

14ct gold is hallmarked 585

18ct gold is hallmarked 750

9ct gold 37514ct gold 585

18ct gold 750

Again these hallmarks follow the pattern of reflecting the purity percentage of gold in the different carat weights. This increases from 37.5% up to 75.0% as the carat number increases. These are the carat weights of gold that we sell in Burrells.

The UK standard is rigorous when it comes to this hallmark. If an item of gold is sent into the assay office under the assumption it is 18ct gold, but it tests as 74%, then it will be stamped as 14ct as it hasn't met the assay office’s firm standard.

 

Platinum

five-sided shape

Platinum is hallmarked 950 which also represents its purity of 95% platinum in its mix.

platinum 950

Often featured in our engagement rings and wedding bands, platinum is a great alternative metal choice to white gold.

 

Palladium

trapezium or three circles 

Palladium in our rings will be hallmarked either 500 or 950, to show 50% or 95% purity of the metal.

palladium 500palladium 950

 

 

 

Palladium is a great option choice for mens wedding bands, due to it's strong durable nature.

 

Year of hallmarking

The other marks you might see is a letter inside a shape, and this indicates the year the item was hallmarked. Each year the letter is changed and is engraved inside the same shape.

hallmark years

Once all 25 letters have been used (every cycle they will miss out either I or J as they look so similar), they will change the shape.

There may also be other marks which will be used for special commemorative years such as the jubilee or the millennium!

 

Give it a go!

jeweller looking for hallmarks

It can be quite amazing how much history you can learn from a piece of jewellery, just by these tiny details. Now that you are all clued up on the mysterious hallmark symbols, don’t be afraid to grab out that magnifying glass and take a closer look!

 

You might also like these other blogs:

Why Is The Gold Price For Scrap Gold Less Than The Original Selling Price?

How Much Does It Cost To Resize A Ring?

What Are The 4 C's Of Diamonds?

 

Or how about our youtube channel?

 

 

 

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Jewellery

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