What is silver hallmarking and why is so very important. We have hallmarked our silver here in the UK since the twelve Century. So we probably have got the hang of it by now. Yes, that’s right since about 1158. King Edward passed a law requiring all silver to be of at least sterling standard. A purity of 925 parts per thousand, and that it should be tested by the assay system that has continued to thrive for 700 years.
The law made it the responsibility of the Goldsmiths’ Guild to mark all items of sterling standard and above. The first hallmarking was restricted to London city but through time other assay offices were opened. There are offices in Edinburgh, and in Birmingham and Sheffield. The assay offices were established by an Act of Parliament in 1773. Dublin’s assay office has been working since the middle of the 17th century and is still working today. Glasgow’s assay office closed in 1964.
The Importance Of Silver Hallmarking
So, why is hallmarking so important when buying silver. Well, the marks show who made the piece. Also when it was made and where it was made. Probably more importantly that it is truly silver and even what grade of silver. Beware, so much silver imported into the UK from abroad is, and this is controversial, very probably not silver. Or at least not sterling silver 925, let alone higher fineness Britannia silver 958.
The Quality Of Silver
If a silver item is simply stamped 925 this is a guarantee of nothing, any one can obtain a 925 stamp and stamp zinc with a little silver plating as 925 silver. Why zinc you may ask, simple it is a similar colour and malleability to silver especially when polished with a layer of silver plate. So, if it does not have a UK assay office hallmark how do you know it is truly silver – you don’t.
Silver Hallmarking 925
That is not to say that some very small and very light pieces cannot be punched 925 and are in fact 925 silver. Anything Just above 7.5grams in weight does not have to be assayed – now that is very light. Probably not a great piece of silver anyway and cheap because it is very light, and the maker has saved the cost of sending to assay and paying for the guarantee that it is indeed silver. I guess that is OK if you are buying a cheap pair of earrings punched 925 and costing only a few pounds and made in – who knows where!
The Acid Test
Ah you say, surely, I can buy the little acid test bottles and test it myself. Good luck with that, do you know who makes the acid test bottles and are they sold and made by reputable companies. The acid test, if the bottle is genuine, is at best a rough guide. It maybe OK for a pair of cheap cufflinks but not much else. Am I saying they are not entirely accurate – yes that is what I am saying, so please be beware.
The only certain way to be sure you are getting real silver is to buy silver that is hallmarked here in the UK.
Precious metal hallmarking in the UK is the oldest form of consumer protection anywhere in the world. We are very lucky to have it.
So, what does a UK silver hallmark look like, it looks like this –
Next post, silver plated photograph frames – is Zinc the new silver
The Edinburgh Hallmark
The Edinburgh Hallmark comes from the Edinburgh Assay Office. This is 1 of only for Assay offices within the UK which can give hallmarks to precious metals. The other Assay offices are. The Sheffield Assay Office. Birmingham Assay Office and the London Assay Office.
More about the Edinburgh Hallmark
What Metals Require a Hallmark?
By law in the UK all precious metals over a stipulated weight which are intended for sale are required to carry a hallmark. The list is below and not exhausted.
A hallmark can only be applied by one of the four UK Assay Offices. More information can be found in this guidance leaflet issued by the British Hallmarking Council.
Hallmarks which are applied by member countries of the International Hallmarking Convention are also accepted.
History Of Hallmarks
If you are about to embark upon a sideline of investing in silver it is important that you know what the hallmarks are.
The different symbols in a hallmark will tell you who made the item, what the standard of metal is, where it was hallmarked and possibly the date when it was hallmarked.
The art of hallmarking in the UK has a long history. It dates back 700 years, when a rigorous and very sophisticated system of hallmarking was developed. You’ll find 3-5 of these authenticating marks on most old English, Scottish and Irish silver and gold. It is, in fact, the oldest form of consumer protection known in the world. At Edinburgh Silver we only sell quality silver gifts
Hallmarks are proof that the article has been independently tested and stamped. In the UK, these marks can only be applied by an Assay Office. In the past most cities and towns had an office but these days there are only 4 remaining in London, Birmingham, Sheffield and Edinburgh. The office that we use is Edinburgh
Sponsor Mark Or Maker Mark of Silver
Sometimes known as the Makers mark. This unique mark tells you the person or company responsible for sending the article to the Assay Office. It is normally 2 or 3 initials in a surrounding shape. This mark can be applied by the maker prior to being sent for hallmarking. However it must be present before the official hallmarks can be applied by the Assay Office.
This important mark will tell you what type of metal it is as well as the purity. Given in parts per thousand. Sterling silver is 925. This indicates that 92.5% is silver and the remaining 7.5% is an approved base metal alloy such as copper which is needed to provide strength to the relatively soft metal. The higher the precious metal content of the metal, the softer it is.
Britannia Silver Hallmarks
958 is the stamp of Britannia silver and indicates more pure silver in the item. The Britannia silver is a little softer than the standard 925 silver. With the 958 the silver content therefore it should be 95.8% pure silver.
Assay Office Mark
This shows you the symbol of the Assay Office where it was tested and marked. A Castle indicates an Edinburgh mark. The other office symbols can be found above under the BHC guidance notes.
Apart from the three marks we just mentioned, there are a number of optional marks that you can ask for.
Date Marks Of Silver
This mark was compulsory before 1999. However not any more but it is still widely used. It is always a single letter of the alphabet in a unique font and surrounding shape and follows the compulsory marks.
Traditional Purity Mark Of Silver
Consequently prior to 1999, silver and platinum finesses were indicated by symbols instead of numbers. The Rampant or Passant Lion stood for sterling silver and the head of Pallas Athena stood for Palladium.
We continue to use the Lion Rampant which is the symbol for Sterling Silver exclusively hallmarked in Scotland.
COMMEMORATIVE MARK –
These are special marks that can be added to a piece in honour. A significant national event for a dedicated period of time, usually a year. Examples of these are the Millennium Mark and the Queens Diamond Jubilee mark. Having this type of mark can make an item more collectible in the future.
Common Control Mark
This also called a Convention mark. Given to ensure safe cross border trade of precious metals between the member countries of the International Convention as mentioned above. The UK has been a member since 1972. This means that an article intended for sale in the UK with an international common control mark from a member country doesn’t have to be remarked with an equivalent UK hallmark.
There are also a number of hallmarks that aren’t used anymore, such as duty marks, import marks and standard marks.
If you intend to sell precious metals in the UK, by law you must display what is called a Section 11 Dealer’s notice which can be viewed or downloaded here
If you are unsure about a hallmark or the purity of the metal you can contact your local Trading Standards Authority.
These days, for many of us eCommerce or online shopping is extremely popular, but when you are purchasing you still want the assurance that the quality is the same standard as what you’d get in a retail outlet when you can handle and examine the goods. To give our customers peace of mind we have our website audited regularly by an Independent entity which was set up by the Edinburgh Assay Office called Assay Assured. This audit ensures that all products are accurately described and we display clear information about precious metal and hallmarking for consumers. They can also act as a mediator should a dispute ever arise. Our website carries the Assay Assured Trustmark – more details can be found here
Identify your Silver
Do you need assistance identifying your silver piece? We are specialists in the metal industry and offer a free and efficient service to help you distinguish a hallmark.
Magnet For Testing Silver
The easiest way to test if your jewellery is really sterling silver is to get a magnet and place it next to your piece of jewellery. Metals such as gold, silver and platinum are not magnetic, so if your jewellery is attracted to the magnet, you can be sure that your piece isn’t real silver.
Cloth Test For Silver
Wiping your jewellery with a soft white cloth will tell you how pure your jewellery is. Consequently if you notice black marks appearing on the cloth after rubbing your jewellery, you can be sure that it is 925 silver.
This is because 925 silver oxidises when exposed to the air and it the reason why silver jewellery is prone to tarnishing over time and developing a dark blackish tinge.
Hallmarked Silver Money Clip