The UK is one of only a few countries in the world that have compulsory statutory hallmarking.
This means that every item sold as precious metal, ie gold, silver or platinum, must have been tested and hallmarked by an independent third-party Assay Office to guarantee that the precious metal is of the fineness stated. The law applies to everything SOLD in the UK , regardless of where it may have been manufactured. The only exemptions are items which are lower than the specified weight – it’s 7.78 grams for silver – which means some small pendants, earrings, etc, containing small amounts of silver, won’t be hallmarked.
Other than the weight exceptions, it is illegal in the UK to state that an item is made from any of these metals without it having been hallmarked. You may see items sold cheaply as ‘silver’ which are not hallmarked – chances are, they will not be genuine.
It can sometimes mean that you are paying more for your hallmarked jewellery, as makers have to register with the assay office and pay for hallmarking. But it means they are more likely to make good quality jewellery to go to the trouble and cost of hallmarking it, so your investment is protected. And the cachet of having a hallmark is value in itself!
For more information about hallmarking and what to look for in a hallmark, take a look at the hallmarking notice – it’s the one that precious metals jewellery sellers must display in their shops or stalls. Don’t worry, it’s only a one-page poster!