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UK hallmarks for imported jewellery


#1

Hello all

I have finished a range of about 100 pieces of high end enamelled
sterling silver jewellery that I am sending with a sales rep from
New Zealand to be based permanently in London who will also be
making occasional trips around the rest of Europe.

I understand there are different laws regarding hallmarking in the
UK and I need to know do I have to have the jewellery tested by any
government or other department before I am able to sell it there.
The average retail price will be about 250 to 350 Euros. I would
rather do all the hallmarking myself so the highly polished finish is
not affected. Can anyone please advise me if there are any extra
hallmarks I have to apply or what department I should be contacting
for this info.

Thanks
Phil W


#2

Dear Phil W,

If someone from the UK was buying your jewellery from New Zealand,
then it would be subject to New Zealand’s laws, BUT if your
jewellery is to be sold in the UK, it must be hallmarked at one of
the UK’s four assay offices, as it will be subject to the UK
Hallmarking Act of 1973. With your rep based in London selling your
work, you won’t be able to stamp it yourself (apart from your
registered maker’s mark - see below), you’ll have to send it to the
assay office for them to stamp.

The Birmingham Assay Office:
http://www.theassayoffice.co.uk

The London Assay Office:
http://www.thegoldsmiths.co.uk/assayoffice

The Sheffield Assay Office:
http://www.assayoffice.co.uk

The Edinburgh Assay Office:
http://www.assayofficescotland.com

Exemptions from the hallmarking law are: silver articles with a mass
of less than 7.78g, gold and palladium articles with a mass of less
than 1.0g and platinum articles with a mass less than 0.5g. However,
you can still have items under the above weight limits hallmarked,
and the fact that your jewellery is high end would probably mean that
you’d want a full hallmark applied to it, as people paying higher
prices would more than likely expect a full hallmark.

You have to register with one of the assay offices, paying a and
they’ll give you a choice of marks based on your company’s initials.

You make your choice and order your punch. You can keep your maker’s
mark punch and stamp the jewellery yourself (the only thing you’re
allowed to stamp is your registered maker’s mark), or they can keep
it and stamp it for you, along with the other two marks which need
to be stamped: the fineness mark (ie 925) and the symbol of the assay
office with which you’re registered. A full hallmark consists of the
three marks mentioned above (mininum requirement), and sometimes a
date mark in addition if requested.

An example of the registration and punch charges for the Birmingham
Assay Office are as follows: “Our registration fee is UKP 60.00 plus
VAT. Your registration will last for a 10 year period. A charge of
UKP 70.00 for each Sponsor’s Mark punch is also made for upto two
initials.”

I hope that’s clear enough.

Helen
UK


#3

Details and contacts regarding importing and hallmarking can be found
on The London Assay Office website;
http://www.assayofficelondon.co.uk

There is a Hallmarking service available, by The London Assay Office,
at Brinks Mat near Heathrow Airport for those who import and export
jewellery that needs hallmarking. Also they have a laser marking
service in London for finished work, I am not sure if this is
available at Heathrow as I get my Hall marking done at their main
office in the City of London behind Goldsmith’s Hall. Check out
their website’s downloads as they cover most questions.

Peace and good health to all and I hop the price of gold stops rising.
James Miller FIPG.


#4

If you hallmark your pieces yourself, you can be persecuted because
it is against the law.

To sell jewelry in the UK made of precious metals, you have to
register with one of the hallmark centres - London, Birmingham,
Sheffield, there is one other, I can’t remember… - it is approx
UKP 100. They will let you choose your own little design for yourself
(your initials in a circle or a diamond shape for ex.) and then you
need to send in your pieces and they will assay them. You can choose
between mechanical hallmarking and laser hallmarking, which is more
expensive but very clean and crisp. If you do not follow these
instructions, your pieces will be destroyed when they find out.

One more thing: if you choose your design, don’t go for the smallest
size, it’s hardly readable even with magnification 10.


#5

Hi Phil,

All precious metal products ( above certain prescribed minimum
weights ) which are to be sold in the UK MUST carry the hallmarks of
one of the UK Assay Offices by law. No ‘foreign’ hallmarks are
accepted on trust and so all items have to be submitted to one of the
Assay Offices for testing. Imported items would usually be given an
’import mark’ to distinguish them from UK produced items. The London
Assay Office website will give you more information
http://www.assayofficelondon.co.uk

It is normal for UK made items to be submitted for assay in an
unfinished condition but finished goods can be assayed and the Assay
offices now augment their time-honoured method of taking scrapings
from every part of the object (including solder seams which must also
be to standard) with more modern techniques which are less
destructive and may not need any cleaning up. They will also apply
the hallmarks using lasers if requested to do so to save disfiguring
finished goods - I often wonder myself if this method will stand the
test of time and still be readable in 300 years…

Whichever way you go, if you want to sell in the UK, you will have to
bite the bullet and comply with the Hallmarking Act requirements.

Best wishes,
Ian


#6

Hi Phil

Hopefully they have electronic assays now.?

I am not sure exactly what the rules are now.

When I worked in England last in 1982 the rules went back to AD1300s
and something, They were basically.

You have to supply / choose your personal stamp and have it approved
by the Hall, ‘The London Assay Office’ You cannot do your own
’Hallmarking’, it must be done by the Assay Office. The term
’Hallmarking’ is only valid in Britain and strictly speaking the rest
of the world only ‘marks or stamps’ jewellery or silversmithing, NOT
’HALLMARK’ As it is not assayed before sale. Stamped work in other
countries is sold on trust, In Australia for example I have had to
point out very occasionally to repair customers that their 'valued’
ring is not what it is stamped as. In Europe, when I worked in
Denmark the workshop was visited by officials who took metal samples
and visited shops where the work was sold. Heavy penalties were
incurred if metal was not as marked. In Britain no items in precious
metal could be sold unless Hallmarked or else had to be described
only as 'yellow metal or white metal if not hallmarked. Non precious
metals could not be soldered to precious metal. But could be riveted.

Heavy penalties could be given for falsifying marks or claiming
unmarked work as made from precious metal.

Google: Goldsmiths Hall or, The Worshipfull Company of Goldsmiths.
The London Assay Office, Goldsmiths Company. In 1982 all imported
work had to have a ‘compliance mark’ So your agent would have to
deliver your work to the ‘Hall’ back door, not the grand entrance.
Cant remember the address in Hatton Garden and pay the fee for
Sampling, Assay and Stamping. You could pay an extra fee for extra
care, probably worth while for finished work. You could supply a
sample of Silver so that they did not scrape off too much for their
assay sample. They may have electronic sampling by now. Leave space
for 5 marks.

Then your agent will have to pick it up and to get someone to tidy up
and re polish. As a working jeweller I sent a weeks work in near
finished state to the ‘Hall’ and it would be returned to me, marked,
for me to finish and polish 5 or 6 days later. I have heard the rules
may be different now since entry to the EU. Actually I always found
the Hall very fair and helpful, you just have to accept their
standards.

Bear in mind, that if your metal does not come up to SCRATCH ie is
not 925 or whatever It may be destroyed. The term ‘coming up to
scratch’ comes from the time when the assay test was just a scratch
with a needle by an experienced man. Try to scratch a piece of 925
silver with a needle then a piece of slightly lower silver 900 and you
should feel the difference.

Perhaps send the enamel part unset with the setting and have it set
in England after marking. Or don’t send the enamel at all, just the
setting to be marked. Have you got a website love to see you work.
Hopefully they now have electronic sampling or have relaxed the
rules. Perhaps Europe would be easier if there are problems.

Have a look at whoswhoingoldandsilver.com all the Goldsmiths Hall
and the Assay office departments / sites are available from it + you
can see lots of sumptuous modern British work.

David (Australia)
jewellerydavidcruickshank.com.au


#7

The UK hallmarking regulations can be found at
http://www.britishhallmarkingcouncil.gov.uk

In the UK own hallmarking is not allowed.

Robin Key
Clavis Jewellery
Aberdeen, Scotland


#8

I’m a bit confused on the hallmarking laws in the UK. Does it mean
that every single piece that is ever made in your shop has to go to
be assayed and hallmarked? As example, I would have to send them 100
of the same design/same material bracelets to be assayed before they
could be sold in the UK?

Valerie


#9

Hello all and thank you very much for all the input.

I think I have it all sorted, but a couple more questions please.by
the way I have submitted these questions to the British Hallmarking
Council but not had a reply.

Firstly I assume every single piece has to be tested either
electronically or traditionally with acids regardless of numbers
being produced.

Also can anyone give me an approximate idea of the charges per item.
Lastly, I had already stamped my makers stamp and also STG & 925 on
most of the pieces I had planned to send.I am now recasting the
entire range without any stamps so it can be done there.If I did
send some with stamps already on would they be rejected
automatically or would they just ignore those stamps and put their
own on anyway providing they passed the test ? Again, Thank you all
very much

Phil W


#10

Hi Valerie

Yes! Every single piece of 9ct 14ct 18ct 22ct Platinum and palladium
over 1 gram or 5? grams silver has to be sent or delivered to one of
the halls in Britain as stated. And each piece is individually
assayed and marked with 4 + stamps. Makers mark, purity mark. assay
office mark and date stamp and if imported, a compliance mark. The
assayer takes a small scraping of gold, weighs it, and refines it to
pure gold and weighs it again. the difference giving the purity. And
so it has been since AD 1300ish. Yes thirteen hundred AD! If I
remember rightly it was originally a tax levied by the King on
church silver and the nobility. And to stop fraud by unscrupulous
makers. For several centuries now it has been a guarantee of purity
and a source of income for the ‘Goldsmiths Company’ who gaurd and
promote the industry. They are a very forward looking body. See:

http://whoswhoingoldandsilver.com

You can get all the links through the above an see scrumptious
British work. They have exhibitions and issue excellent teck.
research papers.

http://jewellerydavidcruickshank.com.au


#11

In the UK everything above a set minimum weight has to be assayed
and marked. The minimum weight varies according to the precious metal
used, e.g. silver has a higher minimum than gold. The minimum weights
are quite small. Many jewellers err on the side of caution and send
virtually all of their pieces to assay to avoid any question and
possible prison term. So yes, as in your example, you would have to
send all 100 of your same design/material bracelets to be assayed.
Solders must be of the same metal and carat weight (or above) as the
body of the piece, and though it has never happened to me, excessive
use of solder can be cause for rejection.

This requirement may sound restrictive to some from outside of the
UK, but the process is easy and the Assay Office is exceptionally
helpful if you have any queries. If you are living and working in
the UK it is somewhat easier as pieces are sent off to assay before
final polishing and certainly before any stones are set or enamels
laid. The earlier the better. For example, I made a run of simple
silver pendants in 2000 to carry the special Millennium mark as a
feature. I sent in a sheet of silver with the pendant shapes scribed
on the sheet and indicated where I wanted the marks placed. The Assay
Office in theory only had to sample the sheet rather than each
individual pendant. The cost is per set of marks and is very low,
particularly in comparison with the value it adds to ones work in
terms of quality assurance of the metal.

Mixed metal pieces can now be hallmarked. Say I made a cuff out of
copper with pierced silver overlay… the copper would be stamped as
"metal" and the silver part would carry the full hallmarks for
silver.

Hallmarking is one of the reasons why British silver is so highly
regarded worldwide.

I strongly recommend looking at the Goldsmiths Hall and Assay Office
web sites. They are full of useful and the fascinating
history of British Hallmarks. The little known Trial of the Pyx is a
lovely piece of history still carried out to this day.

Enjoy the journey!
Linda


#12

Hi Valerie,

Does it mean that every single piece that is ever made in your shop
has to go to be assayed and hallmarked? As example, I would have to
send them 100 of the same design/same material bracelets to be
assayed before they could be sold in the UK? 

Yes, that is exactly right - how else could one be sure that you
didn’t send one good one for Assay and then sell 99 duds?

In practice, where, for example, an Italian chain manufacturer sends
in 1000 thin gold chains all the same, the assay office will take
one or two chains at random and just test them but each and every
piece has to be individually marked by the Assay Office.

Ian
Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK


#13

Usually they test each item but for large numbers they will assay a
random number and OK the lot. They don’t test with acids but
actually scrape off a small amount (including solder seams) and
assay using, I think, gas chromatography. The scrape can ruin a
carefully polished piece. Best to go with the laser option.

They ignore your other stamps but be careful. If items are marked
already and fail they may legally destroy them.

Tony Konrath


#14

All items made of silver over 7.78gms, gold over 1gm and platinum
over 0.5gm (less stones etc) has to be assayed before it can be sold
as silver, gold or platinum. If it is not it has to be called white
or yellow metal. Since the 1st January this year palladium is also
included in the assay legislation. Many other European Union
countries have similar regulations.

It has been law including a makers mark since 1364 in the UK.

Robin Key
Clavis Jewellery
Aberdeen, Scotland


#15

Hi Phil,

Firstly I assume every single piece has to be tested either
electronically or traditionally with acids regardless of numbers
being produced. 

Yes, each individual piece will be tested unless, as I said in
another post, there are a lot of similar items, in which case, the
Assay Office may decide to just select one or two at random to test.

The Sheffield Assay office, at least, do now use X-ray spectrography
methods of analysis for delicate items but, as this method really
only analyses the surface of the metal and can still be caught out
by, for example, objects with a thick gold plating, they still prefer
the older method of cupellation. This is the traditional technique in
which scrapings are taken from one or more inconspicuous places on the
item, weighed, wrapped in lead foil, heated in a special crucible and
weighed again. The reason for the lead foil is that, when the
scrapings melt, the alloying metals bond preferentially with the lead
and this is then absorbed by the special crucible leaving just a
little button of pure gold or silver in the crucible. By weighing
this and comparing the weight with the original weight of the
scrapings, it is easy to work out the metal’s purity with great
accuracy.

If I did send some with stamps already on would they be rejected
automatically or would they just ignore those stamps and put their
own on anyway providing they passed the test ? 

It would be better for your pieces to be submitted for assay with
only your ‘sponsors’ mark (makers registered mark) on. The Assay
Office may choose to just ignore your other marks and give the pieces
an ‘import mark’ but they may alternatively decide to obliterate your
’unofficial’ purity marks which may deface the product. In the eyes
of the buying public, a piece bearing import marks rather than full UK
hallmarks, may be considered as inferior as such marks are not well
understood by the majority.

HTH,
Ian
Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK


#16

Hi Robin,

It has been law including a makers mark since 1364 in the UK. 

WAS there a United Kingdom in 1364? :wink:

As I understand it, if I sell something to a customer in the UK, but
they order it directly from me in the US, the assay and hallmark are
not nessisary. But if I sell to a retailer in the UK it is their
responsibility to have it hallmarked. In some cases this meant that
they insisted that I have it hallmarked. So I have done that, but not
in several years. One retailer that carried my work got his hand
slapped because it was not hallmarked.

If a UK or Irish jeweller sends work to me the hallmark is not
legally required, since it is not being soled retail where that law
applies. But when I sell Celtic style work, the hallmark adds a
little bit of authenticity to the origin. But only a little. Most
American don’t really get it.

Stephen Walker


#17

Thank you all for sending such incredible about the
marking of silver for the UK. I especially liked the in-depth
response from Linda saying that she sends a whole sheet with pendant
placements marked. As I responded off list to Ian, “There is
something very nice in the marking that puts those pieces into the
stream of history and antiquity though.” I went to the site that
David had a link to in his answer… beautiful works, beautiful site.
So very exciting to see silver objects in there too!

I have some solid silver spoons that have been passed down through
the family that have 4 or 5 hallmarks on them. I’ll see about
researching them through the Goldsmiths Hall and Assay Office.

Thank you!
Valerie


#18
As I understand it, if I sell something to a customer in the UK,
but they order it directly from me in the US, the assay and hallmark
are not nessisary. 

That is true Stephen but the piece could not then be resold in the
UK by the customer or their successors as gold or silver - it would
have to be described as ‘white’ or ‘yellow’ metal and would probably
fetch a lower price than a hallmarked piece.

Ian
Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK