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What is a Hallmark & Why is it Important for your Wedding Bands

If you have ever bought and looked closely at a piece of fine jewellery you will have likely seen the tiny marks on the metal. These marks are most often found inside a ring or on the back of jewellery. It is a set of marks applied to precious metal items of gold, silver, platinum or palladium. These marks mean that the item has been independently tested and it is a legal requirement when selling jewellery.

Believe it or not there are legal standards of precious metal purity (fineness) when selling to customers. This is a great thing which can give shoppers security and trust in the products they are buying.

Hallmarks add to the guarantees of provenance provided by makers. Provenance could be a term you haven’t heard before. It simply means the place of origin or earliest known history of something. Within the jewellery industry this generally refers to where the metals and gemstones we use comes from. The Hallmark helps do this by telling anyone who checks it, where and when the piece was marked, what it is made from, and who the maker is.

The Assay Office is the centralised location where Hallmarking takes place. The term ‘Assay’ refers to the testing of a metal to determine its ingredients and quality. This information forms the basis of the Hallmark.

There are multiple details that go into the full traditional Hallmark, we will detail each one as we go on.

Most comprises five marks:

  • Makers mark

  • Year mark

  • Assay Office location mark

  • Traditional fineness mark

  • Millesimal fineness mark

Maker's mark, also known as Sponsor's mark, will be present in every set of Hallmarks. This is like a logo, completely unique to every brand or individual maker that made and sent the piece for hallmarking. It is made up of initials chosen by the brand or individual maker. Usually the initials from the brand name, between 2 and 5 letters. These initials are surrounded by a shape. This external shape varies from oval to rectangle and multiple shapes in between which are difficult to describe but add a lovely uniqueness to the maker’s mark.

The year mark, also known as the date letter mark, is a non-compulsory mark but is often present. The date is represented by a letter, this letter changes annually on January 1st. The font and shape of this mark changes too, even the case of the letter differs year to year. Due to the restrictive number of letters in the alphabet, these other aspects change so each mark will be unique to each and every year. The Assay Office takes this uniqueness so seriously that they go to the trouble of destroying each date marking tool at the end of each year so there can be no forgeries!

The Assay Office mark is another compulsory mark. It is essentially a mark letting you know where in the country, your piece was marked. As a reminder, the Assay Office is the centralised place where Hallmarking takes place. There are only four offices in the UK, London, Birmingham, Sheffield and Scotland. No matter where in the country your piece of jewellery was made, it will have been Hallmarked at one of these locations. Annaloucah Fine jewellery holds the London mark which is represented by a leopard's head.

This historic depiction of the leopard’s head is internationally recognised as the stamp of approval and guarantee of quality. It has been used by some of the most influential craftspeople in history, on some of the most famous pieces of fine metal.

The Fineness symbol mark may or may not be present as a part of the hallmark but is common to see. ‘Fineness’ is a term for the measurement of the purity of the precious metal. There is a different symbol for Sterling silver, gold, palladium and platinum. Sterling Silver for example is represented by a lion and gold denoted by a crown. Try to see if you can spot them on some of your favourite pieces.

The Millesimal Fineness mark is an extension of the Fineness mark, it is compulsory so will be present in all Hallmarks. This mark indicates the metal type and quality used in the piece your wedding rings. It is represented by numbers based on how precious the metal is. We spoke about this in a previous blog post. If you would like to find out more about metal alloys you can find out more here. As with the maker's mark, these numbers are surrounded by a shape which also indicates the metal type. 

Every pair of wedding rings you look closely should have a set of Hallmarks. Each set is unique to the maker, metal type and location it was made. They are like a signature stamp of approval. Why not check some of your favourite pieces to see if you can spot the Hallmark and read it? You may need a magnifying glass!

If you have any questions about Hallmarking or anything else for that matter please get in touch, we love hearing from you. 

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