What is hallmarking?
Hallmarking is a stamp which is applied to metals to denote their precious value. In the UK, the hallmarking law states that a piece of silver which is over 7.78g needs to be hallmarked to be legally sold as silver, and likewise for gold weighing over 2g. Looking for the hallmark when purchasing jewellery or silverware is a stamp of authenticity, protects the buyer from plated or sub-standard metals being passed off as solid metal.
In order to be hallmarked, pieces have to be sent to an Assay Office. Every single item is tested before it can be being hallmarked. There are four Assay Offices in the UK, they are located in London, Birmingham, Sheffield and Edinburgh.
Four grades of silver hallmark are available, these are: 800, 925, 958 and 999. The numbers relate to parts per thousand which are made up of silver, so for example, 925 is 92.5% silver, which is sterling silver, and the vast majority of the pieces for sale in my shop are made from sterling silver, as the alloy is stronger than the purers alloys of 958 (Britannia silver) and 999 (fine silver), making it more suitable for jewellery and silverware.
For lots more information about the hallmarking process please visit: https://theassayoffice.com/
What does a hallmark look like?
A hallmark must contain three symbols, these are the makers or sponsors mark, the fineness mark and the assay office mark. There are optional additional marks, such as the date later which denotes the year a piece was hallmarked. From time to time there are also special commemorative marks, such as for the Millennium or the Diamond Jubilee.
Makers register their sponsors mark so that they can have their work hallmarked. This is either two or three letters, often the maker’s initials, surrounded by a shield shape, chosen from a standard range available. Each sponsors mark is unique, so any piece which is hallmarked can be traced to the maker, the assay office and if the date letter is included, the year of assay.
My hallmark is ‘LM’ and it is registered at Birmingham Assay Office. Pieces are usually sent for hallmarking halfway through making, as when the hallmark is struck it often leaves a slight indentation on the other side of the piece which needs to be polished out. I have specified those items in my shop which are hallmarked in the individual product descriptions.
Close up of my hallmark on a silver spoon commission