H - Hallmark



From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

hallmark is an official mark or series of marks struck on items made of precious metals—platinumgoldsilver and in some nations, palladium. In a more general sense, the term hallmark can also be used to refer to any distinguishing characteristic or trait.

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.


In 1300 King Edward I of England enacted a statute requiring that all silver articles must meet the sterling silver standard (92.5% pure silver) and must be assayed in this regard by 'guardians of the craft' who would then mark the item with a leopard's head. In 1327 King Edward III of England granted a charter to the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths (more commonly known as the Goldsmiths' Company), marking the beginning of the Company's formal existence. This entity was headquartered in London at Goldsmiths' Hall from whence the English term "hallmark" is derived. (In the UK the use of the term "hallmark" was first recorded in this sense in 1721 and in the more general sense as a "mark of quality" in 1864.)

United Kingdom and Ireland

One of the most highly structured hallmarking systems in the world is that of the United Kingdom, (Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland), and Ireland. These four nations have, historically, provided a wealth of information about a piece through their series of applied punches:
  • A stamp indicating the purity of the silver is called the assayer's mark. The mark for silver meeting the sterling standard of purity is the Lion Passant, but there have been other variations over the years, most notably the mark indicating Britannia purity. The Britannia standard was obligatory in Britain between 1697 and 1720 to try to help prevent British sterling silver coins from being melted to make silver plate. It became an optional standard thereafter, and in the United Kingdom and Ireland is now denoted by the millesimal fineness hallmark "958", with the symbol of Britannia being applied optionally. The purity mark for Irish silver is the harped crowned.
  • The date mark is a letter indicating the exact year in which the piece was made. The typeface, whether the letter is uppercase or lowercase, and even the shape inside which the letter is stamped, must all be taken together to determine the year.
  • The city mark is used to indicate the city in which the piece was assayed. For example, a crown of a certain style indicated the city of Sheffield, while an anchor indicated the city of Birmingham.
  • Each silver maker has his or her own, unique maker's mark. This hallmark is usually a set of initials inside an escutcheon.
  • Irish silver also contains the image of Hibernia. This mark was introduced in 1730, and is still in use today.

These marks are the city marks, London, Birmingham, Sheffield and Edinburgh 

So here in the UK if my jewellery has more then 7.78 grams of silver in it and I want to sell it then it has to be hallmarked. This means I have to be registered with The London Assay Office, have a makers mark made and then send my jewellery (along with some paperwork) off to The London Assay Office....

to be tested and then marked with my makers mark, date stamp, and metal fineness (purity) mark. I then pay fees (online, it's all very convienent)....

and my treasures are then posted back to me (the above ones I am still waiting for)! 
I love being part of this almost 700 year old tradition and get huge satisfaction knowing that jewellery I have made, that bears my makers mark will be around long after I am gone, How fantastic is that. And just in case you were wondering this is my mark....

The NS are my initials (Niky Sayers) and here is a better pic of the other marks....

I hope you are having a fantastic day x

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