The council is comprised of representatives from:
• Retail jewellers
• Manufacturing jewellers
• Trading Standards
• The Department of Trade and Industry
• Assay Offices
• Lay people from outside the jewellery industry, but with relevant expertise
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 £15.00 plus VAT and postage at the prevailing rate.
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.
Approved by the British Hallmarking Council on 15 April 2013
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
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.
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
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:
Geraldine Swanton - Secretary
The British Hallmarking Council - April 2014
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