British Hallmarks

 

British sterling silver (925 purity)  

British sterling silver was named after the coinage of the realm, being 92.5% pure (hence 925) and has been assayed or hallmarked (i.e. tested for purity in the assay halls) since around the year 1300.

In 1544 the lion passant mark often referred to as the 'sterling lion', was introduced and remains today the hallmarking symbol of British sterling silver.

Sterling charms and small items of silver may display various marks or none at all.

All new items of silver which weigh over 7.78 grams must be hallmarked according to British law. This hallmark is impressed on the piece at one of the British assay offices... today only London, Birmingham, Sheffield and Edinburgh. 

All British hallmarks must include the following separate marks: The maker's or sponsor's mark; fineness, purity or control mark (eg 925 for sterling silver); assay or town mark (eg the anchor for Birmingham). Other marks eg. the lion passant and date letter are now optional.

Most small silver items will not have a full hallmark but may be marked  'sterling', 'silver' or 'silv' / 'sil' for short. They may also be marked 925.

You can be confident that you are buying a sterling silver item, which is produced in the UK, as long as you purchase from a legitimate supplier who will vouch for the purity of the metals used. This guarantee chain is rigorously enforced down the line to the Bullion source or smelters.

Check to see if your supplier is a member of either the British Jeweller's Association (BJA) or the National Association of Goldsmiths (NAG). These are the two trade bodies who support and help regulate the British Jewellery industry.

British gold

The first compulsory hallmark in London (the leopard head) was introduced in the year 1300 and a compulsory maker's mark in 1362. The date letter (originally known as the assay master's mark) was introduced in 1478 along with the necessity to have items stamped independenly at the Goldsmith's Hall, hence the name 'hallmark'

15, 12 and 9 carat standards were first introduced in 1854 in response to the demand for watch cases for the American market. 15 and 12 carat standards were withdrawn in 1932.  The four standards of 9 (375), 14 (585), 18 (750) and 22 (916) carat remained and 2 new standards of 990 and 999 have more recently been introduced.

All new items of gold which weigh over 1 gram must be hallmarked according to British law. This hallmark is impressed on the piece at one of the British assay offices... today only London, Birmingham, Sheffield and Edinburgh. 

All British hallmarks must include the following separate marks: The maker's or sponsor's mark; fineness, purity or control mark (eg 375 for 9 carat); assay or town mark (eg the anchor for Birmingham). Other marks eg date letter are now optional.

Lighter weight articles under 1 gram often do not have hallmarks, but may be marked 375, 750 etc to indicate the metal purity.

Check to see if your supplier is a member of either the British Jeweller's Association (BJA) or the National Association of Goldsmiths (NAG). These are the two trade bodies who support and help regulate the British Jewellery industry.

 

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