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Author Topic: Dummies' guide to hallmarking?  (Read 811 times)
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ajda
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« on: April 30, 2015, 09:11:48 AM »

Another one for MizGeorge and other metals experts... Can anyone direct me to a really comprehensive guide to hallmarking written for metalsmiths in layman's terms? I can find lots of bits and pieces of info all over the place, though there seems to be some confusion in some areas - eg exemption weights for pairs of items and/or detachable parts, and for mixed metals. I have tried going back to the hallmarking act itself, but it numbs the brain...
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mizgeorge
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« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2015, 01:43:46 PM »

I'll have a go, but be aware that not all offices interpret the rules in exactly the same way, and there is a difference between trading standards rules and theirs, which can also cause confusion.

However, as a general rule, if you want to describe the items for sale as being made from (all or in part) precious metal the exemption weights are:

silver (of all fineness levels above 925) - 7.78g. Items qualifying for a 958 can be stamped as such, as can fine silver at 999.

gold - 1g
palladium - 1g
platinum - 0.5g

Remember this is the total metal weight only - any other materials are not included.

Now comes the fun stuff.

For mixed metals, it's the total weight of all metals (including base metals) that's measured. So for example, if a bracelet has 15g of copper rings, and a couple of silver ones weighing 2g, it DOES need hallmarking if the silver is to be described as such. If a small silver piece weighing less than 7.78g includes gold weighing more than 1g, it DOES need to be marked.

It will be marked with the lowest precious metal (so the silver piece will be marked 925). Some offices will add a 'metal' mark to pieces including base metals, and will also attempt to mark the higher metal appropriately if it's possible to do so on the metal in question.

There is a particular issue with non precious metals that cannot be easily identified as such, so any piece that, for example, includes silver and silver plated components will not qualify for a mark as it cannot be easily determined which part is which.

Earrings and cufflinks are not always treated the same by the assay offices, but as a simple rule, weigh them separately. If each half is under weight, they DO NOT need to be marked.

As for detachable parts, if they can be detached without the use of any tools, they can be weighed separately. If tools, even simple ones, are required, then they must be combined for weighing. So if you put a pendant on a chain and it can simply slide off it can be left unmarked as long as each part is under the threshold. However, if you include a larger jump ring for security, so the pendant can't be detached from the chain without a pair of pliers (or very, very strong fingers) then it must be treated as a single piece.

Hope that makes sense - it's a bit of a minefield, but an important one that far too many people disregard.
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Pam
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« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2015, 03:45:17 PM »

Thanks George, that is very helpful indeed. Even though I did know some of this it does clarify some areas that seemed a bit woolly to me. Smiley
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JKC
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« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2015, 03:55:25 PM »

Hi Pam, I use Edinburgh and if you phone them, they will talk you through everything and they are very friendly and patient. Janet
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ajda
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« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2015, 05:01:27 PM »

George - thanks for all that. I've been looking into it for a while and am pretty clear on the main points, I think. But it's some of those grey areas that I still can't get my head around. The mixed metal examples you give are a case in point. If the copper/silver piece weighing more than 7.78g must be hallmarked, presumably a silver piece with even a tiny bit of gold is the same, if the whole (not just the gold content) is more than 1g?

The points you make about there being different practices and/or interpretations of the law by the different assay offices - and that trading standards may differ again... that is very interesting and perhaps explains why I've found apparent confusion in some explanations and discussions online.

I know, as Janet points out, that the assay offices are likely to be helpful - I've already addressed a couple of questions to them as well as exploring their websites (and lots of other online sources). But new questions arise and old ones come back, because my sieve-like memory lets go of stuff that I thought I knew... so then I go trawling around again looking for answers.

I guess I was hoping that someone somewhere had put together a definitive guide - a complete map of the minefield, as it were - so I could refer to it again and again without bothering other people or spending hours googling.
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mizgeorge
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« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2015, 09:18:35 PM »

There is no definitive guide that I've ever seen - but I and others have spent many years getting information out of all of the various assay offices and I think we're just about there now!

And yes, if the total weight of a piece containing gold is over 1g (and it's hard to make much that isn't) it must be marked if you want to call it gold.

There is someone from the London Assay Office who's a member on the Cookson's forum, and that's been pretty helpful in the past.
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ajda
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« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2015, 11:13:29 PM »

And yes, if the total weight of a piece containing gold is over 1g (and it's hard to make much that isn't) it must be marked if you want to call it gold.

OK, so here's a test for you...



...a pair of silver earrings, very lightweight, each about 1.2g, each with one tiny dot of fine gold as an accent... If hallmarked, the gold dot is too tiny to take a mark, so they'd presumably just be marked 925 or 958 or 999 for the silver. But if not hallmarked, can I describe them legally as silver, which I could do if there was no gold on them at all? Can I say in a description that they have a dot of fine gold on them?
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mizgeorge
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« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2015, 01:03:48 AM »

I think they probably have to be marked. I can easily check, though as this must be something that all the keum boo enthusiasts must run into on a regular basis.
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ajda
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« Reply #8 on: May 01, 2015, 07:15:59 AM »

Thanks again, George, but please don't worry about checking that one for my sake - I really just wanted to test you! Seriously, though, it does show up how unclear some of those grey areas are. And yes, I nearly asked you about keum-boo too. I am going to get myself registered with one of the assay offices very soon and I can leave most of my questions about specific items till then - I have quite a collection of pieces on the side now that are over exemption weight or that I'm not 100% sure about...
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