Changes to the Hallmarking legislation which came into force on April 6 will create new opportunities for the Jewellery industry and offer consumers more accurate descriptions of the items they are purchasing.
Historically the Hallmarking Act has prevented the Assay Offices from hallmarking items made of a mixture of precious and base metals and the regulations for mixed precious metal items have been very restricting. This has resulted in misleading descriptions because if a precious metal item is not hallmarked then it can not be described as such.
Significant anomalies have arisen, particularly for expensive items such as 18ct Gold and Stainless Steel watches which have had to be described as ‘yellow metal’ and stainless steel. Consumers and the jewellery industry will benefit from the changes which will allow for more accurate descriptions of both upmarket mixed precious metal products and also for fashionable lower priced pieces such as Titanium and Silver jewellery.
The ‘weight ratio’ rule which applied to mixed precious metal items has been abandoned. Previously a piece which was a mixture of say 9ct Gold and Silver would have to be hallmarked silver, as the lower quality metal; but if the weight ratio of the piece meant there was more gold than silver then the piece could not be hallmarked at all. Not a helpful situation for either the jeweller or the customer. Under the new regulations such a piece can have both a full silver hallmark and a minor gold fineness mark. Retailers will have the opportunity to identify any mixed metal items currently in stock which would benefit from a proper description and submit them to their Assay Office for hallmarking.
Michael Allchin, Chief Executive & Assay Master of The Birmingham Assay Office sees this as significant move which offers new opportunities for the UK Jewellery industry. “We have campaigned for these changes for a long time and believe they will be of huge benefit to both the jeweller and the consumer. Designers now have new scope to mix precious metals with base metals to create innovative contemporary pieces” he said. “Jewellery purchasers will now know exactly what they are buying and have the reassurance of a hallmark, guaranteeing the fineness of the precious metal component.”
6th April also sees another amendment to Hallmarking legislation in respect of items brought onto the market pre 1950. Prior to this date it was not compulsory to hallmark all precious metal articles, and until now unhallmarked items manufactured after 1920 could not legally be described as silver, gold or platinum. The new amendment extends the exemption date to 1950 and allows these items to now be sold as 18ct gold, Sterling silver or platinum without a hallmark, so long as the seller can prove the item was manufactured before 1950.
The onus of responsibility lies with the seller to prove the date and the standard. Proving the date is difficult without extremely good provenance and it is anticipated that some will still find it more satisfactory to have the article hallmarked.
Full details of the new regulations can be found on The Birmingham Assay Office website www.theassayoffice.co.uk under Hallmarking. A fact sheet is also available from: