Thanks to Stuller Settings, Inc., there is a concise explanation for your
question prepared by the Jewelers Vigilance Committee.
As my good deed for a while (maybe the year), I'm going to transcribe it
here and post it so all will be able to refer to this sometimes confusing
aspect of the law. To wit:
NATIONAL GOLD AND SILVER MARKING ACT
On October 1, 1981, revised Section 295 of Volume 15 of the United States
Code, the law governing requirements for gold and silver marking, which is
commonly known as the National Gold and Silver Marking Act, went into
effect. Originally enacted in 1906, this law never required one to indicate
quality. However, if quality was affirmatively disclosed, it had to be
accurate within 1/2 karat (without solder) or 1 karat (with solder, article
assayed in its entirety) from the disclosed mark. Criminal sanctions could
be imposed for violations.
In 1961, this Act was amended to require the additional disclosures of the
name or registered trademark of the firm responsible for the quality
guaranty. This law was amended in 1970 to provide for civil penalties via
private legal action.
Now, the fineness tolerances for gold articles are considerably tightened.
Signed into law in 1976 and effective October 1, 1981, Section 295 was
revised to further regulate preciuous metal standards by more stringently
specifying the proportion of gold with and without solder, making gold as
good as gold.
Since October 1 has passed, the following stricter requirements apply. In
the case of gold or any of its alloys imported, exported or transported
through interstate commerce, actual fineness shall not be less by more than
3/1,000ths parts (without solder) or 7/1000ths parts (with solder taken into
While the law requires that gold and silver jewelry carrying a quality mark
also carry the registered trademark of the person or organization
responsible for the guarantee of quality, there is no United States law
requiring that gold or silver be quality marked in the first place. If a
quality mark appears, so must the trademark. Whereas a quality mark alone
is meaningless, the appearance of a trademark serves to assign the
responsibility for fraudulent quality marks.
A quality mark represents the stated standard. The presence of the
manufacturer’s trademark is an important assurance that the ratio of gold to
alloy as represented by a stamp on the article is accurate, thus making it
conform with the law. On a pragmatic level, such a measure is valuable
primarily to distributors and retailers who can hold the manufacturer
responsible in case a quality mark is found to be an exaggeration, thereby
relieving themselves from responsibility in the chain of distribution. If,
however, a quality mark is unaccompanied by a manufacturer’s trademark, it
is the distributor and/or retailer who will be held accountable of having
passed fraudulently marked goods onto the public.
A trademark is an assurance of quality. It is a permanent record of origin
and an assumption of responsibility. It is clearly for the benefit of both
distributors and retailers to make certain that each and every gold or
silver item purchased is inscribed with a quality mark and is inscribed with
a trademark, in accordance with the law. Important: The application of
this mark is required to be identical to the means used in applying the
quality mark, and must be at least as large as and positioned as close as
possible to the quality mark.
Requiring that manufacturers remain wholly accountable for the quality of
their gold and silver items, this law offers distributors and retailers a
degree of assurance in the value of their products. Since tolerance
standards are much higher than before, there may be a particular urge on the
part of some members of our industry to bypass the requirements of signature
presence on their gold and silver goods. Anyone who wants to keep his own
standards high should remain alert, demanding that others do not try to
side-step the law.
The Federal Trade Commission's Guides for the Jewelry Industry contain
additional prohibitions of which industry members should be aware. JVC
members have copies of the National Gold and Silver Marking Act, as well as
our recommendations for revision of the current Guides, which we submitted
on January 8, 1981. Reference to these Guides and the Stamping Act is
advised for full understanding of the law.
---Jewelers Vigilance Committee
JVC’s HOW TO OBTAIN A TRADEMARK KIT
PREPARED EXCLUSIVELY FOR THE USE OF JVC
Joel A. Windman
Executive Vice President and General Counsel
Jewelers Vigilance Committee
Jewelers Vigilance Committee, Inc.
1185 Avenue of the Americas
New York, N. Y. 10036
Copyright 1989, J.V.C., Inc.
End of quote from Stuller’s Findings Book. What follows is my own statement:
While hallmarks and trademarks may have a common origin, the words have
slightly different meanings, according to GIA’s The Jeweler’s Manual. The
four original assay offices in England and two in Scotland were called
"halls," from which “hallmark” is derived. While day-to-day usage may
differ from what follows, according to the Manual the term appears to be
applicable only to marks applied by these offices in London, Birmingham,
Sheffield, Chester, Edinburgh and Glasgow. The American "trademark"
appears to be the equivalent of the U.K.'s “maker’s mark,” except that in
the U.K. a manufacturer may put a retailer’s “maker’s mark” on an item, so
it doesn’t necessarily indicate who actually made the item. The Irish
Republic has a similar but still unique system of its own, to make it even
I hope this is of some help.
Rick Martin, MARTIN DESIGNS