Nowhere else in the world are consumers more highly protected than in the UK. 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, platinum or palladium 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 fall beneath the specified weight thresholds which are 1 gram for gold, 7.78 grams for silver, 0.5 grams for platinum and 1 gram for palladium.
Hallmarking was originally introduced in 1300 by a Statute of Edward I and is one of the earliest forms of consumer protection.
Hallmarking is necessary because when jewellery and silverware are manufactured, precious metals are not used in their pure form, as they are too soft. Gold, Silver, Platinum and Palladium are always alloyed with copper or other metals to create an alloy that is more suitable to the requirements of the jeweller. Such an alloy needs to be strong, workable, yet still attractive.
Owing to the high value of gold, platinum, palladium and silver, there are significant profits to be gained by reducing the precious metal content of an alloy at the manufacturing stage. Base metal articles plated with a thin coat of gold or silver look the same as articles made wholly of precious metal, at least until the plating wears, and even an expert cannot determine the quality or standard of precious metal items by eye or touch alone.
With volume manufacturing, enormous profits can be made from even a small reduction in the amount of precious metal used. Without compulsory independent testing there is huge potential for deception and fraud.
Before an item can be hallmarked the Assay Office will test or assay it to ensure that the precious metal composition meets the legal requirements . No negative tolerance is allowed, so if, for example, an item of 9ct gold which should be 375 parts per thousand fine gold, proves to only be 374 it will not be hallmarked.