All that Glitters is not Gold
Precious metals are rarely used in their purest form but are usually alloyed with other metals for workability, durability, wearability.
It isn't possible to detect an article's precious metal content by sight or touch, therefore, it is a legal requirement for an Assay Office to hallmark articles containing precious metals if they are described as such. Hallmarks are marks applied to precious metals to indicate the amount of pure metal in the alloy.
Traditionally applied by striking with a punch, hallmarks can now also be applied using lasers. Read more in Methods of Marking.
There are four Assay Offices in the UK (London, Birmingham, Sheffield, Edinburgh) – none are Government run, and are private companies but overseen by the British hallmarking Council.
The oldest Assay Offices are working from Royal Charters (London and Edinburgh).
The Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office began hallmarking in 1327 - the oldest UK Assay Office.
- Consists of a series of marks applied to articles of the precious metals platinum, gold, palladium and silver
- Means that the article has been independently tested
- Guarantees that it conforms to all legal standards of purity (fineness)
- Guarantees provenance by telling us, as a minimum legal requirement, where the piece was hallmarked, what the article is made from, and who sent the article for hallmarking.