Assay Office Birmingham has announced that they are about to open off-shore sites, beginning with a sub-office in the export zone in Mumbai, where they will be operating just exactly as they do in their six UK sub-offices, striking the Anchor hallmark to guarantee the fineness of the precious metal.
This announcement has caused a certain amount of comment in the Silversmithing and Jewellery Trades.
Kate Hartigan, Chairman of the Birmingham Assay office says: “There clearly is a widely held misunderstanding of the UK Hallmarking System.
The Birmingham hallmark, the Anchor, is not an origin of manufacture mark. It is a mark for consumer protection which certifies the precious metal content of the product and not where the jewellery was made.
“Imported jewellery has been a factor for UK jewellery manufacturers for many years; as long ago as 1990 the level of imported jewellery marked was over 35% of product hallmarked in the UK. That imported product was coming from many countries and still does today.”
Kate continued: “All of the four UK assay offices test and mark imported product with their own local hallmark. So the ‘Anchor’ is currently used on imported product and it makes little difference whether that is marked here in the UK or offshore.
We are proud of the fact that we will be using the Birmingham mark globally, and raising this city’s profile and the quality it stands for on a global scale. We are also responding directly to requests from other customers who are very keen for us to apply the hallmark at a location where the product is sourced so as not to disrupt the import supply chain, as occurs when the mark is applied in the UK. Other UK assay offices have already responded to this demand; we are the last to do so.
“It is important to note that UK hallmarking legislation does not allow Assay offices to mark imported products any differently to those made here, and that legislation, together with the dropping of an import mark, was introduced in 1998 through a change to the Hallmarking Act. However, this change also allows jewellery suppliers/manufacturers to export from the UK to many countries in the world, with our hallmark being accepted in those territories with no requirement for the product to be marked as an import.
“We do think there might be an opportunity for a ‘Made in Britain’ mark and there does seem to be a general move in this direction across many industries and we absolutely should build on this.”
Marion Wilson, Director of the Assay Office’s AnchorCert Academy has re-assured the Trade that: “Much of the work coming through will be articles that are currently marked when they arrive in the UK. Our customers are very keen to have them marked abroad at source, to shorten their overall lead times so we have had to respond in order to keep the business, as our competitors – including the Dutch Assay offices and others – would have been happy to pick up the business.
“There are a handful of our long established customers who don’t think we should be striking the Anchor outside Birmingham, as they are mistakenly of the belief that the Anchor mark certifies location of manufacture. This is simply not true. The Anchor is our guarantee – a sign of Fineness and Quality not of origin of manufacture; in fact, 95% of what we strike in Birmingham is not made in Birmingham or even in the UK.
Marion continued: “And really, that’s the crux of it; we are all operating in a single market and we have witnessed many businesses fall by the wayside as they struggle to compete in this new global marketplace. We are simply moving the location at which we strike the mark, on the jewellery that is already coming out of India. This is exactly what we are doing in our UK sub-offices already, and which Sheffield has been doing for approximately 12 months from their sub-office in Italy.”