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Hallmarking

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In the guide

Any person who deals in precious metals must ensure they are correctly hallmarked and must display a dealers' notice.

This guidance is for England, Scotland & Wales

Selling and buying jewellery and other articles of gold, silver, platinum and palladium (precious metals) is controlled by the Hallmarking Act 1973.

Any article made of a precious metal must contain an approved hallmark.

It is an offence to apply the description gold, silver, platinum or palladium (precious metal) to an article or supply or offer to supply an article described as a precious metal if the description is not true. There are also offences for describing an article as plated with a precious metal if that description is not true, and for using the description rolled gold if it is not true.

Approved hallmarks

An approved hallmark is one that has been applied by a United Kingdom assay office to an article made of precious metal.

The UK is part of the International Convention on Hallmarks; all member countries can apply the 'common control mark', which will then be accepted in all other member countries.

Hallmarks from countries in the European Economic Area are also accepted.

An article is considered to be unhallmarked if it does not bear the approved hallmarks and a sponsor's mark or if a hallmarked article has been the subject of an improper repair.

Only registered sponsors' marks may be used as part of the hallmarking process for new articles.

Any article of precious metal submitted to a UK assay office must have the following marks applied:

  • sponsor's mark
  • assay office mark
  • standard of fineness mark
  • pictorial mark
  • date letter

Sponsors' marks

If you wish to have an article of precious metal struck with the approved hallmarks by an assay office, you must first have it struck with an authorised sponsor's mark. Alternatively, you can arrange for an assay office to strike your sponsor's mark when they strike the approved hallmarks. The sponsor's mark indicates the maker of the item or the person who commissioned it and must be registered with the assay office.

Exemptions

There are some exemptions to the requirement to hallmark items of precious metal. These include coins and articles that would be damaged by the hallmarking process.

The exceptions are as follows:

  • any gold article of at least 375 parts per thousand does not need a hallmark if it is less than 1g in weight
  • any silver article of at least 800 parts per thousand does not need a hallmark if it is less than 7.78g in weight
  • any platinum article of at least 850 parts per thousand does not need a hallmark if it is less than 1g in weight
  • any article of palladium of at least 500 parts per thousand does not need a hallmark if it is less than 0.5g in weight

Dealers' notice

Any person that deals in precious metals must display on their premises, in a conspicuous position, a Hallmarking Act 1973 notice as approved by the British Hallmarking Council.

An example of a dealers' notice can be found on the London Assay Office website.

Notices may be obtained from one of the assay offices based in Edinburgh, Birmingham, London or Sheffield.

Weighing Instruments

The weighing of precious metals for sale or for purchase is strictly regulated by the Weights and Measures Act 1985. Weighing Instruments used to determine the weight of precious metals for sale or purchase must be approved and exhibit the appropriate government stickers. Only weighing instruments of class I or class II can be used for the sale or purchase of precious metals.

See 'Weighing equipment for legal use' for more information.

Nickel, lead & cadmium

Nickel, lead and cadmium are considered to be undesirable contaminants in jewellery and their content is strictly controlled by the REACH Enforcement Regulations 2008 (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals).

See 'Jewellery safety: metal content' for more information.

Penalties

If you sell, or have in your possession for sale, precious metals that are not correctly hallmarked or are misdescribed you will be breaking the law and may be prosecuted. The maximum penalty is a fine and two years' imprisonment.

Further reading

The British Hallmarking Council has produced Hallmarking guidance notes, which are available on the GOV.UK website.

Key legislation

Last reviewed / updated: December 2017

Please note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.

The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.