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