If you look closely at a piece of jewellery made of real gold or platinum, you will usually find one or more small stamps in a place hidden away from the visible area, for example, inside in a ring made of yellow gold. While recognisable to the naked eye, they are usually only readable under a magnifying glass. This stamp or embossing on precious metal is called a hallmark. There are often several stamps. Only precious metals are hallmarked, meaning gold, silver and platinum.
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Standard hallmarking in Germany
Information on the fineness of the precious metal in thousandths is required by law; for example, for a gold ring embossed with 750, for example, the pure gold content is 750/1000, which corresponds to 75%. The rough rule of thumb is: the higher the number, the more precious metal the piece contains, which also has an effect on the value. Therefore, not all gold is the same. The common jewellery standards in this country are 333, 585, 750 gold. Pure 999 gold is only found in bars or coins as it is very soft and therefore not suitable for jewellery production. Platinum comes in 585, 750 and 950, whereby 950 is used for jewellery production almost exclusively.
In addition to the fineness, there are often additional manufacturer’s hallmarks, which allows the manufacturer to be clearly identified. There is only self-hallmarking in Germany; there is no monitoring body or official inspection body.
Hallmarking in Europe and the EU
In other countries there are more detailed hallmarks, e.g. in England there is a lion’s head for the responsible authority in London and an embossed letter indicating the year of manufacture in addition to the fineness of the stamps. There is also mandatory hallmarking; examination by a state-approved inspection body is obligatory. The same applies e.g. in France and the Netherlands. In some countries, such as Belgium, Italy and Sweden, there is a hybrid system; the inspection is not mandatory but there are state or state-appointed bodies that carry out this kind of hallmarking or award official master stamps.
The fineness indication is also partly different; in the English-speaking countries, it is common to indicate the carat instead of the thousandth, abbreviated with k or ct. 8 carat corresponds to 333, 14 carat 585, 18 carat 750 and 24 carat 999 gold.
In some countries there are also hallmarks that indicate whether it is an export article intended for sale in another country. Even more complex and extensive jewellery stamps can be found on antique jewellery; jewellery from the 19th century often has five to six hallmarks. There are various databases on the Internet that specialise in antique hallmarks.
Are you interested in gold or platinum jewellery with diamonds? BAUNAT’s experienced team will be happy to advise you; get in touch!