Hallmarks have long been a symbol of quality and reassurance for purchasers of precious metal items, including jewellery, since the middle ages. In fact it was in 1238 that 'Henry III made the earliest attempt at regulating the standard of gold and silver wares, passing an order commanding the mayor and aldermen of the City of London to choose six of the more discreet goldsmith of the City to superintend the craft' (The Goldsmiths' Company).
There is no way to fully know the fineness or composition of alloyed metal by touch nor sight, so this is where a hallmark comes in. Legally, items in the UK over a certain weight (7.7g Silver & 1g Gold) must be hallmarked and are sent to an assay office where a fraction of metal is extracted and tested. Providing the item is the alloy it claims to be, the item will be stamped with a series of symbols to communicate;
- who the maker is
- the fineness of the metal
- the assay office who tested and stamped the item
- the date (year)
At Minima we are registered with the Goldsmiths' Company London Assay, which is where hallmarking as we know it began 700 years ago and whose symbol is the leopard (see above). As 2022 marked the Platinum Jubilee, if you purchased something from us this year you will also find a commemorative mark for Queen Elizabeth's 70th Jubilee in addition to the regular hallmark.
Sometimes, you may also see a fineness mark on our pieces under 1g of gold such as '375'. On these items, which are not required to go to the assay, we like to think they also deserve some recognition, so we stamp them to make it clear which alloy the piece is made of!
A bit more about the Goldsmiths' Company...
"The Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office is where hallmarking began, and have been testing and hallmarking precious metals for over 700 years. Our reputation for excellence in hallmarking, service, and support is both revered and unparalleled.
For over 700 years goldsmithing, silversmithing and jewellery trade has blossomed in the UK. Centuries of the worlds finest craftspeople have come from our shores. The Goldsmiths' Company has played an instrumental part in the development of the worldwide trade. Hallmarking has protected consumers for 700 years and has led to a system built on verified trust - one that can often be taken for granted.
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. (Weight exemptions apply for items below certain weights. For silver 7.78g, gold and palladium over 1g, and platinum over 0.5g to have a UK recognised hallmark.)"
- The Goldsmiths' Company