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The meaning behind the hallmark on your jewellery – Ruth Tomlinson

The meaning behind the hallmark on your jewellery

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I’m sure you may have noticed the little stamped marks on your jewels made of precious metal, but have you really looked at them? Granted, you’d need a magnifying glass (or a jeweller’s loupe) to see the detail, but it is worth taking the time to examine them in this way because each mark has an important meaning behind it.

In the UK it is a legal requirement for jewellers to have their work in precious metals, over a certain weight, hallmarked. For us, any creation weighing in at over 1g of gold needs to be sent off to the Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office in London to be stamped with its unique hallmark. This is the oldest Assay Office in the UK and dates back to the 14th century, when hallmarking began, a lovely slice of history that adds to your Ruth Tomlinson jewel's story. You can read more on the fascinating history of hallmarking on the London Assay Office’s website.

The purpose of a hallmark is not only to show the purity of the precious metal used to create the jewel, it also guarantees the provenance of the jewel by telling us where it was hallmarked, what it is made of, when it was created, and by who. Now let’s take out our loupes and examine the tiny details! Each British hallmark consists of 3-5 elements:

The Maker’s Mark

This is a unique mark that represents the brand or individual who created the jewel and sent it in for hallmarking. It’s made up of the initials of that person or company inside a shape. When a jeweller creates a punch with the Assay Office, it represents their individual mark and joins a register of makers that stretches back for centuries into the history of British metalsmithing. Our Maker’s Mark is ‘RT.’ Within a shield that we like to think resembles the outline of an emerald cut gemstone.

The Precious Metal Mark

This is an optional part of the hallmark and it tells you which precious metal your jewel is made of – sterling silver, gold, palladium or platinum (as pictured, left to right)

The Mark of Fineness

This mark tells you what quality, or purity, the precious metal is in a numerical format that represents parts per thousand. Jewellery is seldom made of pure precious metal, a mixture of metals (alloy) is needed to produce durability and desired colour. As an example, 18ct gold consists of 750 parts per thousand of gold and 250 parts per thousand of other metals, so its Mark of Fineness is ‘750’. The mark of 14ct gold is ‘585’, and 9ct gold is ‘375’. The shape of the shield surrounding the number also represents the type of precious metal.

Assay Office Mark

This is the mark that tells you which British Assay Office has tested and hallmarked the jewel. We are proud to carry the mark of London’s prestigious Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office on all of our jewels which is represented by the image of a leopard’s head (the town mark for London).

The other three current British Assay Office’s marks include an anchor for Birmingham, a rosette for Sheffield (pre-1974 this was a crown), and a castle for Edinburgh.

Date Letter Mark

Another optional part of the hallmark, the date letter represents the year the jewel was created and hallmarked. A list of recent date letters detailed in the image below represents (from left to right): 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016

Now you know the meaning behind the tiny marks that add to the unique character of your jewels!

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