JEWELRY HALLMARKS - GOLD AND SILVER
SAMPLE OF UK SILVER HALLMARKS
A hallmark is an official mark or series of marks struck on items made of precious metals — platinum, gold, silver and in some nations, palladium. Above these marks are examples of UK silver hallmarks.
The bottom row are in order: the makers mark, the assay office, the quality stamp, the "sterling" mark, the date letter, and the millennium stamp.
The bottom example shows the extra marks that can also be struck, the lion passant, indicating Sterling silver, the date mark (lowercase a for '2000'), and in this example, the 'Millennium mark', which was only available for the years 1999 and 2000. The bottom example bears the Yorkshire rose mark for the Sheffield Assay Office.
All the European Union Countries like France, The Netherlands and Switzerland all adhere to the Vienna Convention and the Hallmarking Act of 1973, including the U.S.
UK ASSAY OFFICE MARKS
These are some of the modern UK marks used by almost all UK manufacturers. But hallmarks have been around since the 4th century AD by the Byzantines AND mostly used on silver then. Simply, a hallmark is an official stamp on precious metals to show their quality. Hallmarks are a guarantee of certain purity or fineness of the metal as determined by formal metal (assay) testing. Today all modern precious metal is "Hallmarked" in all countries throughout the world.
Back in the day, countries like the UK developed marking systems that covered all you needed to know about a particular precious metal piece. With figures , numbers and letters they covered, the ‘makers mark’, the assay office location, the metal and its quality. There are even designations for the year it was made. These hallmarks became quite creative:
There are thousands of “makers marks” and litteraly hundreds of countries and territories that have their own Hallmarks. You can find most on the internet or in a library. The most common ones in the U.S. are from the UK, and commonwealth countries as well as the U.S. and Mexico. The study of these marks through history is a facinating story and includes almost all of civilized man's histories.