Hallmark of a jewel or a precious metal object (gold, silver or platinum) is the official guarantee of the title (its degree of purity) of the considered metal.

These precious metals have common characteristics : they're very resistant to oxidation, they have an incomparable brilliance, and above all they are ductile, malleable.

Therefore, it's necessary to combine them with other metals in order to increase their mechanical strength and to be able to use them in the form of jewels or pieces of silverware.

hallmark

Jeweler's hallmark for the interior of a jewel

 

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French legislation on hallmarking precious metals

Silver is commonly alloyed with copper; and gold with zinc, nickel, copper, or silver. It's in order to find your way among this range of precious alloys that hallmarks have appeared. Hallmarks are a guarantee of the title of the jewel's metal or object of art.

hallmarking silver jewel

Since France loves simplicity, it is the most demanding country for jewelers concerning the traceability of jewels and precious metals. Without the PIP case, we might think that all these regulations are indispensable.

The subject of jewelry hallmark being vast, we will detail here the case of hallmark jewelry in sterling silver and you'll be directed towards various websites allowing you to deepen the question.

All jewelery made of precious metals must have a hallmark indicating their title and their manufacturer (master's mark) or their importer. This is true in the case of a jewel in gold or platinum over three grams and for silver jewelry over 30 grams. You can check out the customs page, which tells you what these hallmarks guarantee the title for silver, gold and platinum look like.

French hallmarks

Ancient or fragile jewels can have a hallmark exemption and they are then issued a certificate guaranteeing the title of the piece by an Authorized Inspection Body (OAC). 

Customs are supposed to check the title of all gold jewelry weighing more than three grams and silver over 30 grams, it has been set up a procedure to delegate the laying of the state guarantee hallmark to manufacturers or creators. Thus, the manufacturer or importer is responsible for the quality of the products he manufactures and sells.

The procedure explaining how to obtain the delegation of the state guarantee hallmark is here.

Silver is said to be sterling in France from a content of 80% silver, said money 800/1000. The first title massive silver is 925/1000 silver, 92.5% pure and finally there is a hallmark for pure silver 999/1000 (99.9%). However, on the customs site, there is no mention of silver 950/1000 while it's a commonly used title for fine jewelry and silver jewelry from Peru, Bolivia and Chile .

Hallmarks in Mexico

Mexican pyramid

Mexican internet network doesn't yet provide government websites gathering legal information on hallmarks. All Mexican silver jewelry is marked with the 925 hallmark indicating the jewel's title.

We find little silver jewelry 950/1000 and none in silver 800/1000, alpaca (a poor alloy imitating silver) being used for jewels junk decorated with painted patterns.

Imposible to control the manufacturing process, jewelers control the finished product ; what would have been simple, easy and economical to put in place in the case of the PIP case cited above. All jewelers control their raw material and buyers control jewelry using the touchstone method described here. This method allows you to know in a few seconds and very economically the quality of the silver you hold in your hands.

 

touchstone acid

 

It's possible for you to buy, for 20 dollars approximately, a test kit of the silver allowing you not to know if your silver is 926/1000 instead of 925, but it will allow you to differentiate the various legal nuances and especially to determine the fake jewels.

To answer your curiosity, here is a historical overview of Mexican silver hallmarks.

Mexican jewelry is marked with the famous 925 and may also have the initials MX (for Mexico) or the initials of the manufacturer. Everyone does what he likes. For example, the craftsman with whom we work, Hans Casanova, marks his creations with a hallmark "HANS CASANOVA 950".

hans casanova hallmark

 

Hallmarks in the US

In the US, hallmarking is not a legal requirement. Many US jewelry collectors instead look for maker’s marks to assure them that a piece is of high quality. The problem is that maker’s marks are not regulated, so there is no way to connect a maker’s mark to a process that proves a piece is advertised honestly. In fact, in the US, there is no legal requirement to even register a maker’s mark. It's simply up to the maker to add their mark as they wish.

US hallmarks

Some US companies that have large markets in the UK, do send their jewelry to UK Assay Offices to be hallmarked, so that they can legally sell their pieces overseas. For US customers who want assurances that a piece is advertised honestly, shopping with a company that follows this practice could be a safer bet than shopping elsewhere. But it’s important to note that there are no legal procedures for checking the quality of jewelry in the US before it is sold.

These differences make the jewellery market in the UK and the US quite different to collectors of high quality jewellery. 

Hallmarks in the UK

Hallmarking is required by law in the UK. In fact, the UK has some of the strictest hallmarking laws. Every piece of jewelry sold in the UK that is made up of precious metal must be sent to one of four Assay Offices, where government employees will test each piece for the precious metal percentage, and then mark the piece with a hallmark.

Historically, hallmarks in the UK were made by punching the mark into the metal. Today, lasers are also used to etch the mark into the piece. The mark that is made depends on which of the four Assay Offices the piece was sent to, but the presence of the mark indicates that the piece was proven to contain the amount of precious metal that the jeweller advertises.

UK hallmarks

The possible marks include an anchor for the Assay Office in Birmingham, a castle for Edinburgh, a rose for Sheffield, and a leopard head for London. In addition to this legally required hallmark, jewelry pieces will have a purity mark (which consists of two-digit numbers and the letter k, or three-digit numbers) and a maker’s mark (which could be nearly anything, but is often initials or a logo). Additionally, if a piece of jewelry was made in Britain before 1999, it will have a date stamped into it. This was a legal requirement of all British jewellery until that year.

uk assay hallmarks

Free Bonus : Download our complete guide to silver jewelry (fr).

You'll discover everything you need to know to shop online or in store.

 

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August 19, 2019 — Hugo Maherault

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