What is a Hallmark?
A hallmark is an official mark or series of marks struck on items made of precious metals - platinum, gold, silver and in some nations, palladium. In a more general sense, the term hallmark can also be used refer to any distinguishing characteristic or trait. We sell the finest Hallmarked Sterling Silver Products using this website or you can Freephone us on 0800 8620438 to process your enquiry.
The purpose of hallmark application is threefold:
In the modern world, in an attempt at standardising the legislation on the inspection of precious metals and to facilitate international trade, in 1973 a core group of European nations signed the Vienna Convention on the control of the fineness and the hallmarking of precious metal objects. Those articles, which are assayed and found to be in conformity by the qualifying office of a signatory country, receive a mark, known as the Common Control Mark (CCM), attesting to the material's fineness. The multi-tiered motif of the CCM is the balance scales, superimposed, for gold, on two intersecting circles; for platinum, a diamond shape and for silver a mark in the shape of the Latin letter "M".
This mark is recognised in all the other contracting States, including: Austria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Great Britain, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and Ukraine (see links below). Other nations monitor the activities of the Convention and may apply for membership.
UK Hallmarking legislation
The Hallmarking Act 1973 made Britain a member of the Vienna Convention as well as introducing marking for platinum, a recognised metal under the Convention. All four remaining assay offices finally adopted the same date letter sequences. The latest changes in 1999 were made to the UK hallmarking system to bring the system closer into line with the European Union (EU).
As it now stands, the compulsory part of the UK hallmark consists of the sponsor or maker's mark, the assay office mark, and the standard of fineness (in this case silver, 925 parts in 1000). Historically, hallmarks were applied by a trusted party: the 'guardians of the craft' or nowadays by an assay office. Hallmarks are a guarantee of certain purity or fineness of the metal as determined by formal metal (assay) testing.
Traditionally, the hallmarks are 'struck' using steel punches. Punches are made in different sizes, suitable for tiny pieces of jewellery to large silver platters. Punches are made in straight shank or ring shank, the former for normal punching with a hammer and the latter used with a press to mark rings. The problem with traditional punching is that the process of punching displaces metal, causing some distortion of the article being marked. This means that re-finishing of the article is required after hallmarking. For this reason, and that off-cuts from sprues are often used for assay, many articles are sent unfinished to the assay office for assay and hallmarking.
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