Hallmarking when you start to research all the regulations can get very complicated … even for us but they are so important in the jewellery industry and to you as a consumer!

Even though it sometimes seems so tiny, a hallmark holds lots of information. Whether it’s the maker's mark, Standard mark (fineness), date mark or the mark of origin each stamp makes the piece traceable and guarantees its quality.

Hallmarking has much history and dates back as early as the 13th century however a lot of early records were destroyed by a fire in the London assay office in 1681.  There have been many changes to hallmarking and its standards throughout the centuries which has helped to standardise the hallmarks we see today.


Why do we have hallmarks?

Hallmarks guarantee that what you are purchasing complies with British standards and the only people who can legally certify this is the assay offices. Whether it’s a jewellery company like ourselves or our customers we all deserve to know that what we are purchasing is not fraudulent as all the metal comes at a high price tag! Hallmarks help weed out the frauds allowing you to purchase your jewellery with confidence that they are the real deal.

 What gets hallmarked?

Legally not every piece of jewellery needs to be hallmarked and the decision depends on the weight of the piece. Each precious metal has a different weight restriction, any piece of jewellery above this weight has to receive a hallmark.

The weights of pieces requiring a hallmark are as follows:

Silver – Any piece above  7.78 grams

Gold – Any piece above 1 gram

Platinum – Any piece above 0.5 grams


Silver Kings Coronation Hallmark Bar


What do the stamps look like?

Across the board, most stamps are the same on each piece that gets hallmarked but several marks change depending on where the piece was made, what metal it is made of and the year.

Makers mark – the maker's mark differs for each company and is now referred to as a sponsor mark as not every jeweller is registered to the assay office. Some jewellers may have another company that sends their items to be hallmarked if they are not personally registered. Here at Shetland Jewellery, we have our mark which is SS for Shetland Silvercraft (the old name of the company)

The metal quality – each piece gets 2 stamps certifying the quality of metal. The stamps can change depending on the purity of the metal however the stamps we receive are as follows:

  • Our silver pieces get stamped with 925 and a lion stamp both assuring the piece is sterling silver
  • Gold gets stamped with the carat of gold 375 (9ct gold) or 750 (18ct gold) and with a crown stamp
  • Platinum pieces get stamped with 950 and the traditional orb mark

Mark of origin – There are lots of different assay marks which are specific to each location of the assay office; We get all our pieces tested in Edinburgh so our hallmarks feature the castle mark

Date letter – the final standard stamp features a different letter of the alphabet, each letter represents a different year this year it’s the letter Y. The date stamp has to change its look every 26 years otherwise we would lose track of the true age of each piece – so both the font and outside shield of the letter must change every time we complete the alphabet.

Special Marks -There are very few special marks that have ever been used and they tend to be for big events like jubilees, coronations and the change of millennium. Each special stamp is only available for a limited period! This year we have the special stamp for the King's Coronation which features King Charles's head in an oval shape. (This stamp is only available until the 31st December 2024)

There even was a special mark made during the pandemic that featured a small rainbow, this helped to raise money for the NHS!

Special Hallmark Stamp For Kings Coronation


How do they test the metal?

The assay offices have 2 different ways they use to test our precious metals, they generally decide which test to use based on how finished the pieces are.

If the jewellery is sent to them before they have been polished a small sample of metal is scraped off the piece in an unnoticeable location, it is then used to complete the tests.

If the pieces arrive finished/ polished the assay office uses new testing methods that cause no damage to the pieces. This is done using special X-ray machines called XRF (X-ray fluorescence).

Stay with me it gets a bit complicated...

These machines emit X-rays that then enter the piece making the other atoms within the piece move around and bounce off each other. Each alloy’s atoms then emit their energy which is collected and analysed giving a percentage of each alloy within the piece. These readings can then be compared to see if the precious metal percentages meet the legal standards.


Kings Coronation Hallmark Bar - Set with Stone


How are hallmarks added?

 If you have made it this far well done - I told you it can get a little complicated!

Adding stamps is the easy bit, there are 2 ways to add a hallmark; stamping or laser marking. Like everything with hallmarking, it depends on the piece and what the sponsor/maker requests. The hallmark has to be added in the most sensible location, as the idea is to not look too out of place. Hallmarks are generally added in a line however it can be requested to look more decorative in different layouts if they are to be more of a feature on the piece.

The type of hallmark we use most here at Shetland Jewellery is the stamped hallmark. This is created by taking a metal punch with the selected letters or design and placing it on the piece, we then take a hammer and firmly hit the end of the punch leaving the ‘SS’ mark on the piece – we then send them away to get the additional 4 stamps and the assay office (applied with the same method). Stamped hallmarks are usually used on pieces that are solid metal and are unfinished, this means if there are any slight marks created by any stamping inconsistencies they can be polished out.

The other type of hallmark you can get is a lasered mark. These marks can only be applied by the assay office we don’t even add our maker's mark before we send them. Laser marks tend to be used on finished pieces of jewellery or any hollow metal - as a punch stamp would buckle and flatten any hollow pieces.


Kings Coronation Tie Slide - Featuring Laser Hallmarks


 As you can see hallmarking is a bit of a process and it takes a little while for us here in Shetland to complete,  this is due to the added delay of posting it to Edinburgh and getting it back again. Our hallmarking parcels get posted from the workshop each Friday and we only receive them again the following Friday, sometimes even later depending on the assay office lead times and any mail delays.

Fridays here at Shetland Jewellery HQ are usually pretty crazy getting everything prepped to send but it makes everything worth it when we can see it all shiny and finished. We try to not let hallmarking interfere with getting you your beautiful pieces of jewellery but sometimes there may be a slight delay and the hallmarking could be the culprit!

You can buy your own hallmarked bar here; 




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