Hallmarking Sterling Silver
The quality of British precious metal is protected by law and precious metals have been hallmarked in this country for over 700 years. In the UK, it is illegal to describe a piece for sale as “silver”, “gold” etc., unless its quality has been tested by an Assay Office and it bears a hallmark consisting of the maker’s mark, the fineness mark (925 for Sterling silver) and the mark of the certifying Assay Office e.g. the anchor for Birmingham. Sometimes a traditional fineness mark e.g. the lion for Sterling silver and a date letter are also added but these are not compulsory. In the absence of a hallmark, the description must say white or yellow metal if the piece weighs over 7.78g.
For items under the 7.78g legal limit, jewellers often stamp with their own maker’s mark and fineness mark, thus taking responsibility for guaranteeing the quality of the metal they have used. Some textured pieces are difficult to stamp without a laser so small pieces may not be marked by the maker in all cases.
You may also be interested in my article on Welsh Gold