Hallmarking began in the UK in the Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office, to regulate the standards of gold and silver wares in order to prevent fraud by the goldsmiths and jewellers. Here is the outline of the history of hallmarking and how it is actually used in jewellery.
- What is a hallmark and where does it come from?
- How is a hallmark actually marked on jewellery?
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What is a hallmark and where does it come from?
A hallmark is a mark that is applied to a precious metal to indicate the actual amount of pure metal versus the amount of alloy. Precious metals today are commonly alloyed with other metals in order to improve the durability and workability. Which is why it is important to use hallmarks to understand the quantity of each part in the precious metal.
Hallmarks are applied to various metals, from gold to platinum, through palladium and silver.
Legally, hallmarks also guarantee the provenance, because through a hallmark you can tell where the piece of jewellery was hallmarked, what it is made of and who asked for the hallmark.
Hallmarking dates back to the late 13th century. Henry III was one of the first to attempt to regulate the standards of precious metals by asking the City of London to choose the top 6 goldsmiths of the City to superintend the craft. They later became the Guardians of the craft and their job was to go from one shop to another to assay the work and apply the mark of the City which is that of a leopard’s head.
How is a hallmark actually marked on jewellery?
The traditional mark is made with a punch and a hammer, where the metal is struck directly with the mark. It is best to do that when the piece of jewellery is unfinished so that the struck mark is deeper and can more easily withstand the finishing of the ring, so you know it will last a lifetime.
The laser mark is a result of today’s technology advances and is ideally used when your work is finished and polished. Laser marks can be made with 3 different types of laser beams: the lamp pump, fibre or a diode laser. Laser marks are made through a very fine, very powerful laser beam that vaporises the surface of the piece of jewellery, thereby etching the hallmarks on the metal.
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