Protecting the Consumer and Servicing
the Trade with Independence and Integrity

The British Hallmarking Council

 

THE BRITISH HALLMARKING COUNCIL

The British Hallmarking Council is a statutory body created by The Hallmarking Act 1973. Its functions are:
• Ensuring adequate provision for assaying and hallmarking is available
• Supervising the activities of the Assay Offices in undertaking assaying and hallmarking
• Ensuring the enforcement of the hallmarking legislation
• Advising the Secretary of State with respect to all matters concerning the execution of the Act

The council is comprised of representatives from:
• Retail jewellers
• Manufacturing jewellers
• Trading Standards
• The Department of Trade and Industry
• Consumers
• Assay Offices
• Lay people from outside the jewellery industry, but with relevant expertise

dealers notice

Dealers Notice

One of the requirements of the Hallmarking Act 1973 is that all dealers supplying precious metal jewellery shall display a notice explaining the approved hallmarks.  This must be the notice produced by the British Hallmarking Council, as shown below.

Dealers Notices are available from the Assay Office Birmingham at a cost of £10.00 each including VAT and postage at the prevailing rate.

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GUIDANCE ON DESCRIPTION OF GOLD PLATED SILVER ARTICLES IN THE UK

Gold RingPreamble

The British Hallmarking Council and UK Assay Offices have received an increasing number of consumer and trade enquiries concerning the legitimacy of various descriptions being used at point of sale to describe gold plated sterling silver items.

Higher gold prices have driven an increased demand for gold plated silver items. Many of these products are being described in a misleading way with no reference to silver or the fact that they are plated. These descriptions also often make a specific reference to gold fineness, leading the consumer to believe they are buying gold when they are only buying silver.

The UK Hallmarking Act 1973 Schedule 1 Part 1, paragraph 1(1) (a) makes provision for the description of gold plated articles. The Act sets out to protect the use of the words “gold”, “silver”, “platinum” and “palladium”. If an article is not gold Schedule 1 Part 1 paragraph 1(1) (a) of the Act permits the use of the word “gold”, provided it is followed by the word ‘plated’.

Examples of misleading descriptions we have encountered include: 22ct Gold clad ring, 22ct gold vermeil ring. In both cases the rings were silver with thin gold plating. In both cases a gold description is applied with no reference to plating or the silver.

The British Hallmarking Council is therefore issuing this Guidance document to cover the permitted descriptions for gold plated silver articles.

 DESCRIPTION 

  • When the word ‘gold’ or a specific gold fineness description is used to describe a gold plated silver article; the article must be described as silver and the word ‘gold’ must be directly followed by the word ‘plated’ in the description e.g. 18ct gold plated silver ring. 
  • Other terms like vermeil, may be used in addition but the phrase ‘gold plated’ and the word silver must appear within the description e.g. 18ct gold plated vermeil silver ring. 
  • The term ‘Silver gilt’ may be used to describe gold plated silver, providing a specific gold fineness is not applied as part of the description e.g. silver gilt ring. 
  • The gold plated layer must be of fineness of at least 375 parts per thousand and should not exceed 2 microns in thickness.

 HALLMARKING 

  • Gold plated silver articles will be hallmarked as Gold plated silver articles are not covered by the ‘mixed metal’ amendment to the Hallmarking Act (2007).

 OTHER MARKS

  • Other than the silver hallmark or a 925 stamp on underweight items, no other standalone gold fineness marks are permitted on gold plated silver articles, because they are potentially confusing and misleading to the UK. It is not permitted additionally to mark the article 9K, 10K, 14K, 18K etc, nor can the article be marked 375, 416, 585, 750 etc. For the same reasons, ‘American’ style mixed marks are not permitted either, for example 925 1/20 14K. This is the same as it has always been for gold plated and rolled gold articles under the Hallmarking Act 1973 in the UK. 
  • A gold fineness mark (not hallmark) is allowed if it is immediately preceded or followed by the words ‘gold plated’. For example an article with a silver hallmark (or 925 stamp on underweight articles) can be marked as follows ‘925 & 18ct gold plated’. 

UNDERWEIGHT ARTICLES

  • This guidance applies to all gold plated silver articles below the 7.78 gram exemption weight for hallmarking, as well as for those requiring hallmarking. The ‘exemption’ is an exemption from hallmarking itself, not from the requirements of every other part of the Hallmarking Act 1973.

Approved by the British Hallmarking Council on 15 April 2013 

GUIDANCE ON FINENESS DESCRIPTION

Background

During 2012 and 2013, the Assay Offices received an increasing number of consumer, trading standards and trade enquiries concerning descriptions being used in relation to articles consisting of  gold, silver, platinum and palladium. These enquiries referred to descriptions such as ‘gold’, ‘silver’, ‘platinum’ or ‘palladium’ where there was no reference to the fineness of the metal. For example 

  • “Platinum wedding ring”
  • “Palladium wedding ring”
  • “Real silver earrings”
  • “Solid gold ring”

Theses enquiries were considered by the British Hallmarking Council. The precious metal content of articles (i.e. the fineness of the precious metal) can vary and is identified in a hallmark by reference to a numerical range (“millesimal” finenesses). For example, the fineness of gold articles ranges from 375/9ct to 999/24ct . Fineness can alternatively be identified in a hallmark by using an approved term, such as “Sterling”. The fineness of the article determines the value of that article, which in turn determines the price. In Council’s opinion therefore  descriptions used by retailers and others in the course of a business that do not include reference to a specific fineness standard, are incomplete and potentially misleading. It has therefore issued this  new Guidance Note for all those in the supply chain.

ring band

The statutory provision relating to fineness

Schedule 1 of The ­Hallmarking Act 1973 (the Act) makes specific provision for the use of the words “gold”, “silver”, “platinum” and “palladium” but does not stipulate that the precious metal description must –identify the fineness.

Schedule II Part 1, details the compulsory information to be provided in a statutory hallmark and the recognised millesimal finenesses for each precious metal. Schedule 1 Part III specifies the traditional fineness descriptions. The following finenesses and traditional descriptions are acceptable:

Precious Metal Name

Available Fineness/Traditional Fineness Description

Silver

silver

999/Fine Silver
958/Britannia
925/Sterling
800

Gold

Gold

999/Fine gold/24ct
990
916/22ct
750/18ct
585/14ct
375/9ct

Palladium

Palladium

999/Fine palladium
950
500

Platinum

platinum2

999/Fine platinum
950
900
850

RECOMMENDATION

Although the Act does not require descriptions of precious metals to include information regarding the standard of fineness, the British Hallmarking Council recommends the following good practice in the interests of protecting consumers:

Description

  • When the word ‘gold’, ‘silver’, ‘platinum’ or ‘palladium’ is used in the description of a precious metal article, it should always be accompanied with a specific millesimal fineness or an approved fineness description as provided by the Act and listed in the table above. 
  • The millesimal fineness or approved fineness description must be accurate and consistent with the ­statutory hallmark 
  • Other terms like ‘real’ and “genuine” may be used in addition to the metal type and fineness if they are accurate and appropriate , but a millesimal fineness or an approved fineness description must also appear within the article description e.g. ‘Real 18ct gold earring’ or ‘solid sterling silver pendant’ 
  • This guidance also applies to all gold, silver, platinum and palladium articles including lightweight items that are under the exemption weight and do not need to be hallmarked. In this situation consumers have no means of knowing the precious-metal fineness standard if it is not included accurately in the description.  The ‘exemption’ is an exemption from the requirement to be hallmarked, not from the requirements of every other part of the Hallmarking Act 1973 nor from consumer protection legislation.

Geraldine Swanton - Secretary

The British Hallmarking Council - April 2014 

 

 

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