Do you notice jewellery with markings that read 10k, 14k and many more? These are called hallmarks, which are official markings struck on gold, silver and platinum pieces.
You may notice metal stamps or marking on your jewellery. For example, a number followed by “k” means the item is gold. The karat will vary depending on its purity. You will also find “gold-filled” or “GF,” which means the piece is mostly made of base metal but comes with a gold sheet on the surface.
Other markings are vermeil, sterling, silver-plated, nickel silver, platinum and palladium. Now, where did it all start and how are they made?
Where It All Began
The use of jewellery hallmarks originate in the Byzantium period, wherein silver pieces bore a series of five strike marks to represent their quality. In the Middle Ages, governments took control of hallmarks on gold and other metals through authorised assayers. Assayers would inspect and test them to determine and confirm their quality. Eventually, the mark became the master’s mark and usually came with the assayer’s initials.
Soon enough, the first rules about hallmarking metals, specifically gold, occurred in France when the Goldsmith Statute of 1260 was established. The statute covered the markings that are to be used on silver and was expanded to cover gold.
Still, there remain to be no specific standards to compare the quality of precious metals today. The markings serve as emblems to signify the trust in the goldsmith’s or silversmith’s workmanship and the metal’s purity.
King Edward the I of England passed an ordinance in 1300 that required all silver items to meet sterling silver requirements. All items then bore the mark of a leopard’s head.
In 1972, a lot of European nations held a convention to standardise precious metal hallmarks. Metals that meet the standards are given a particular mark, which is the Common Control Mark (CCM) that indicates the quality of the piece. Jewellery hallmarks bear the date letter sequences along with the maker’s mark, the assay office mark and the fineness.
In the US, the only requirement is for the piece to have the fineness marking.
How Hallmarks Are Made
Hallmarks are made by steel punches placed against the item and striking it with a hammer or pressing it into the metal. The marks come in various sizes to fit a wide range of products. Today, some items are marked with lasers to eliminate damage and the need for refinishing.
Moreover, hallmarks are also designations used to indicate metal fineness, such as 24 carat or 14k gold. When these designations are combined with the actual maker’s marks, they can tell you a lot about the piece.
People in the metal or jewellery business read these to determine the country of origin of the piece, where it was assayed, and the approximate time frame it was created.
Knowing about the jewellery pieces you purchase, especially if it’s gold, is extremely important. When you know what hallmarks are and what they stand for, you will be able to make better investments in the future.
If you’re looking for places to sell gold in London, we can help you here at London Gold Centre. We are one of the top Hatton Garden metal buyers today. Contact us!