Precious Metal, Nickel & Hallmarking

Understanding the metal in your jewellery

From the different types of metal used to make jewellery, to the hallmarks that identify their quality and origin, in this guide you'll find a wealth of useful information on precious metals.

Advice section hero Precious Metals

In this guide:

  1. Types of precious metals
  2. Nicklel and jewellery
  3. Metal hardness
  4. Fine of fashion?
  5. Why should I check for a hallmark?
  6. Assaying
  7. The dealer's notice
  8. What does a hallmark look like?
  9. Assay Office contact details
  10. Frequently asked questions

1. Types of precious metal


Often referred to as a hard metal, this can be misleading. Pure platinum is softer than pure gold and it is the other constituents of the alloy that make it hard wearing. The most common 950 (95% pure) alloy is the hardest of the precious metals used in jewellery. What mustn't be forgotten is that even so, it is far softer than other common metals like steel and chrome. Platinum is very durable and takes a fine polish that is resistant to wear. It is naturally a greyish white and is often rhodium plated to make it even whiter. It requires a higher level of craftsmanship and also being rarer than gold, explains why it is worth more.

Platinum is often referred to as a hard metal, which can be misleading. Pure platinum is softer than pure gold, however when mixed with the appropriate alloy, platinum is the hardest of the precious metals used in jewellery. It is far softer than other common metals like steel and chrome.

Platinum Facts

Pure platinum only has a hardness of 40HV, which is very low and generally considered unsuitable for jewellery. To make it harder platinum is alloyed with other metals, most commonly ruthenium, iridium, palladium and gold or base metals such as copper or cobalt. As with other metals, platinum can also be hardened by further processing such as burnishing and hammering - this type of work will harden the piece making it more resistant to wear and deformation. In general, platinum with a hardness below 100HV is not recommended for casting unless further processing work is carried out.

The facts about the alloys Platinum -5% Palladium (Pd) has an annealed hardness of 60HV, which is very low and is only suitable for the certain castings and delicate settings. It is too soft for ring shanks and is easily dented and scratched.

  • Pt-5% Iridium (Ir) has an annealed hardness of 80HV, which means that it is too soft for rings. However, it has high work hardenability and in the cold worked state is 140HV. This makes it suitable for catches and springs.
  • Pt-5% Ruthenium (Ru) has an annealed hardness of 120HV and is a general-purpose alloy with good machinability. However, there is some doubt about its suitability for castings.
  • Pt-5% Gold (Au). This is a good alloy but the annealed hardness is 90HV and is not suitable for rings.
  • Pt-5% Cobalt (Co) has an annealed hardness of 135HV and is a good casting alloy. It has a faint bluish tinge and is slightly magnetic.
  • Pt-5% Copper (Cu) has an annealed hardness of 120HV and is generally regarded as a good all-purpose, medium - hard alloy.

As expected some alloys are more suitable for casting then fabrication and machining, and vice versa. Pt-5% Cobalt (Co) was created especially as a casting alloy and with a hardness of 135 HV is relatively resistant to scratching. It takes twice as long for Pt-5% Cobalt (Co) and Pt-10% Iridium to exhibit the same loss of surface reflectivity as Pt-5% Iridium. It is recommended that jewellery made from Pt-5% Iridium should only be sold if further processing work has been carried out. This includes decorative engravings and other finishes other than high polished, as well as further processing such as burnishing and hammering.

Remember while choosing a harder alloy and undertaking further processing work on platinum items can reduce the amount of scratching and lengthen the time it takes for signs of scratching to appear. Sooner or later all platinum jewellery will exhibit wear-induced dulling, as will jewellery made of any other metal. So it is important to remind your customer to take special care of their jewellery. Advise them not to wear it when doing jobs around the house, gardening, DIY etc, and let them know that jewellery can also be damaged by shopping trolleys, dog leads, prams, door handles, handbrakes, even washing-up. Some of the information for this fact-file was obtained from The Goldsmiths Company; it may vary slightly and should only be taken as guidance.


Another precious metal which is being increasingly used by UK jewellery companies is palladium. Palladium, a platinum group metal, is normally used at a fineness of 950, or 95% pure. It is strong and durable, but has approximately half the density of platinum and weighs around a third less than gold. Being light means it lends itself well to the creation of larger, more dramatic designer items that are currently fashionable, especially earrings, cufflinks, necklace, bracelets and bangles where weight is important. Palladium is a very bright almost blue ‘white’ and unlike 18ct white gold alloys does not need to be rhodium plated. It wears in much the same way as platinum does and can be highly polished or presented in a matt finish.


Yellow Gold

Many believe, including some jewellers, that the higher the carat of gold the softer the metal (gold is a soft metal). Therefore 9 carat gold, being alloyed with other metals tends to be more resistant to scratching than say 22 carat gold. This is not necessarily the case. Many manufacturers producing 18 carat gold jewellery ensure that, as the jewellery is higher quality, the alloy is harder wearing. This way when you have bought a piece of fine jewellery it will last a long time.

White gold and rhodium plating

Pure gold is yellow in colour but to satisfy the demand for white precious metals ‘white’ gold alloys can be produced by alloying yellow gold with naturally white precious metals such as palladium or silver, or non-precious ‘white’ metals to reduce the yellowness of the resulting alloy. Gold bullion suppliers now sell a range of graded white gold alloys which can be compared against a published scale of “whiteness”. However, white gold is routinely electroplated with Rhodium, a precious white metal which imparts a bright white finish. Depending on the level of wear, this finish wears off and white gold thus requires more care and maintenance to keep it bright.

If the underlying white gold is a yellower grade then it will start to show through as the rhodium wears. Consumers should bear in mind that their white gold jewellery may require re-plating at variable intervals depending on the amount of wear and the thickness of rhodium plating which can be applied to the jewellery. Some designs, particularly those with sharp edges and corners, may only be suitable for a thin plating of rhodium.

Red and other colours of gold

Red or rose gold is created by increasing the amount of copper in the alloy. Introducing other metals (or removing them completely) can make other colours of gold, including unusual tones such as green and blue but these are not generally available.

Durability of gold

Many people believe that due to its higher purity and the inherent relative softness of the pure metal, that 18ct gold is less durable than 9ct alloys. In fact, with modern alloy technology, there is little to support this belief. Today’s 18ct alloys are equally as durable as their 9ct equivalents and offer the additional benefits of tarnish and corrosion resistance, to say nothing of appealing to the consumer’s desire for a more pure and natural product.


Silver, one of the precious metals, can achieve a great polish and does not tarnish in its pure ­­­form. Most silver jewellery is silver combined with other metals as an alloy. This makes it more suitable for general use. Sterling silver, like some other precious metal alloys, can oxidise over time. Properly maintained silver jewellery improves with age and develops a beautiful patina. Treat your silver well, care for it properly and it will reward you with a long life and a special look.

Mixed metals

Until very recently jewellery made using a combination of different precious metals, or of precious metals mixed with non-precious metals could not carry a hallmark on the precious metal element. The law has now been changed and consumers should look out for innovative designs incorporating a variety of materials such as gold mixed with stainless steel, titanium or bronze.


2. Nickel in jewellery

In the UK, jewellers have to be aware of their obligations under the Dangerous Substances and Preparations (Nickel) (Safety) Regulations 2005 which is designed to prevent people becoming sensitised to nickel, which can lead to allergic contact dermatitis.

Because trace elements of nickel can be found in many precious jewellery alloys and particularly in costume jewellery, jewellers have to be confident that when they are designed to be worn in direct and prolonged contact with the skin, eg a ring, necklace, bracelet, watch back or parts of earrings (but not a brooch) any nickel which is released from an item of jewellery is within permitted levels. For piercing post assemblies, this release level is a maximum of .2 micrograms per square cm per week. For other products (ie not piercings) it is a maximum of .5 micrograms per square cm per week. The tests are carried out under controlled conditions in a commercial testing laboratory or in certain assay offices.

Sometimes alloys which could release nickel are plated with lacquer, gold or silver to prevent the nickel being released in contact with skin. In such cases, the plating must be tested with abrasives to simulate two years of wear before they are tested for nickel release.

NAJ does not recommend the use of terms such as “nickel free”, “hypoallergenic” or “nickel safe” because items which release small amounts of nickel can comply with the regulations but could be in contravention of the Trades Descriptions Act. Retailers who use such terms may have a poor understanding of the regulations and their obligations.

Suppliers have a duty of care to their customers and need to be able to show that they have exercised due diligence, either by carrying out their own tests under a control system or by understanding when they can rely on the tests carried out by their suppliers.

3. Metal Hardness

Hardness is determined by pushing a pointed object into the surface of the metal and then measuring the indentation. As a rule, the deeper the impression, the softer the metal; the harder the metal, the more scratch resistant it is. Resistance to scratching that is determined by metal hardness is measured in Vickers (HV).


4. Fine or Fashion?

Jewellery generally falls into two categories; Fine or Fashion.

Fashion Jewellery is also referred to as Costume Jewellery.

The main difference is that Fine Jewellery is made from expensive precious metals while Fashion Jewellery may be plated with precious metal but have an inexpensive base metal core such as brass.

 Fine and Fashion Jewellery may be sold side-by side with no obvious differentiation. The price of the item will depend upon various factors including most importantly

  • any gemstones, pearls or similar materials and
  • the precious metal

and some other factors are...

  • the quality and thickness of the plating and finish
  • the way the item has been made
  • brand and design elements
  • packaging

It is really important to understand what you are buying and research to make sure you pay an appropriate price. If it seems to be good to be true it probably is.

When buying Fine Jewellery

 When buying pieces described as Silver, Gold, Platinum or Palladium, you should always check for information about the hallmark.

A hallmark is a legal requirement for any item described or sold as precious metal unless it is very lightweight This applies whether you are buying online or from a shop or any other face to face situation such as a market.


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5. Why should I check for a hallmark?

The precious metals used in making Fine Jewellery are Gold, Silver, Platinum and Palladium. None of these metals are used in their pure form as they do not have the appropriate properties to create jewellery items which will retain their shape and beauty during wear.

Precious metals are mixed with less valuable base metals such as copper, zinc and many other metals to produce a material suitable for making jewellery. This mixture is known as an alloy. The amount of precious metal in the jewellery alloy is called its fineness. This makes a significant difference to the cost of the materials and therefore the value of the item.

The hallmark confirms that the proportion of gold, silver platinum or palladium in the piece you are buying meets a recognised standard.  It also shows where the item was assayed (tested) to confirm its fineness and who submitted it for hallmarking.

The hallmark is a vital, compulsory  piece of information giving you independent reassurance that your jewellery or silverware purchase has the right amount of precious metal in it and you are not being cheated.   

If you are checking for the hallmark yourself, remember it may be very small on a piece of jewellery, so as not to spoil the look of the piece. It could be on the clasp of a chain, the loop of a pendant or up inside the shoulders of a gem-set ring.

See FAQ’s for more information.

6. Assaying

The purity or fineness of gold is measured by assaying. Traditionally this means weighing the gold alloy and then using a cupellation furnace to remove the alloying metals and any impurities, allowing the final pure gold residue to be weighed and compared with the weight of the original alloy and the fineness can then be calculated. Increasingly, new technology is replacing cupellation but this remains the reference test. Nowadays, minimum fineness is expressed in parts per thousand, so 9 ct is 375, 14 ct is 583 (rounded to 585), 18 ct is 750 and 22 ct is 916.


 7. The Dealer's Notice

All businesses selling fine jewellery should be displaying the “Dealers Notice” explaining what the hallmark means. This applies to all businesses describing fine jewellery for sale in the UK including online, shops, TV channels, catalogues and any other media.

 Your Commitment to Hallmarking 22.10.21

Dealer's Notice A for in-store use.

dealer notice a

Dealer's Notice B for website and digital use.

Dealers Notice B 22.10.21

Download this guide

Resource Author(s) Version Size  
Dealer Notice A (instore) British Hallmarking Council September 2019 1.39 MB Download
Dealer Notice B (digital) British Hallmarking Council October 2021 1 MB Download

There are thousands of lightweight silver items, and some gold items on the market that do not need to be hallmarked.The information below applies to items sold since 1975. Please note: Lightweight items are not legally required to be hallmarked.

These include items such as silver rings, small earrings, fine bracelets, necklets and pendants and small gold stud earrings.  The specific thresholds for each metal are:

Silver              7.78 grams

Palladium      1.0 gram

Gold               1.0 gram

Platinum        0.5 grams


💡 Did You Know?

Hallmarking is the oldest form of consumer protection in the UK.

Find a jeweller


8. What does a hallmark look like?

A hallmark must have at least three symbols and may have more. The three crucial ones are:

The Fineness mark

The most important symbol for you to check when buying jewellery or silverware is the “fineness” mark that indicates what the precious metal is and how much precious metal is in the alloy.

This will be in line with recognised international standards. For example, many new hallmarked jewellery items are made from what is traditionally known as “Sterling Silver”. Legally this alloy must be 92.5% pure silver. The remainder of the mix is likely to be copper and zinc but this can vary.

Traditionally Sterling Silver was indicated by a heraldic lion. The Lion Passant was used by English Assay Offices and the Lion Rampant in Scotland.


You may still see these symbols but the law changed in 1999 and the metal fineness must be shown in parts per thousand, also known as a millesimal value.

Sterling Silver is now marked 925 (i.e. 925 parts per thousand or 92.5% pure silver) although the hallmark may still include the lion as well.


Current recognised fineness standards in the UK

These are the numerical and traditional fineness standards which are currently recognised in the UK. Note the different outline shapes for each metal.

The shape tells you which of the four precious metals your item is made from.

There are also traditional names for gold alloys with 9ct gold being the most common.

Gold fineness marks:


Also legally recognised but rarely used as too soft for jewellery manufacture are...


Silver fineness marks


Also legally recognised but rarely used as too soft for jewellery manufacture is:


Platinum fineness marks


Also legally recognised but rarely used in the UK


Palladium Fineness marks


Also legally recognised but rarely used in the UK


And a rare original mark July to Dec 2009


This was changed in January 2010 due to its similarity to the Platinum mark which could have caused confusion as Platinum and Palladium belong to the same white metal family.

Convention Fineness Marks

You may also see fineness marks that look like this


This may have been applied by a UK Assay Office or the item could have been tested and marked by another Office outside the UK, which is a member of the International Hallmarking Convention. These marks are considered equivalent and are accepted in the UK.   

Again, the shape of the outline denotes the type of metal and the numerical value the percentage of the precious metal in the item. If you would like to know more visit

The shapes and fineness recognised within the Convention are shown here:


The Assay Mark

Items must have at least two additional symbols in addition to the fineness mark.

One of these is the Assay Mark, indicating the Assay Office which tested the item and applied the hallmark to confirm the precious metal content. There are currently four UK Assay Offices and these are their marks for London (far left), Birmingham (left centre), Sheffield (right centre) and Edinburgh (far right).


The Sponsor Mark

The other compulsory mark indicates who submitted the item to be hallmarked. This is typically the maker, retailer, or brand and is usually referred to as the Sponsor Mark. The symbol will usually consist of two or three initials in an outline but some logos are now being permitted. Below are typical examples of the many shapes you may see.


All three of these symbols, Fineness, Assay and Sponsor mark must be present for the item to have been legally hallmarked. If the fine jewellery or silver item you are planning to buy does not have a hallmark it may be fashion jewellery – ie precious metal plated onto base metal unless it is lightweight and therefore exempt from hallmarking.  If buying online check the small print and always ask the retailer to show you the hallmark.

There are also a number of voluntary marks that may be used, but are not a legal requirement.

Current voluntary marks

There are a number of other legally recognised marks which can be applied on a voluntary basis to add further information. These are not a legal requirement, but when used on a voluntary basis they do form part of the legally recognised mark. These additional marks are only valid when applied alongside a hallmark containing the three compulsory marks as described above; Metal Fineness, Assay and Sponsor marks.

The voluntary marks you are most likely to see are the Date Letter and the Traditional Fineness mark.

Date Letters

Historically the hallmark included a date letter indicating the period during which the item was marked. These varied from Assay Office to Assay Office and were not synchronised until 1975. 

Date letters have not been compulsory since 1999 but some jewellers still use them and they are particularly popular for jewellery and silverware to mark special occasions such as birthdays and weddings. Since 1975 all four Assay Offices follow the same letter sequence and the letter changes on 1stJanuary and runs until December 31st. The date letters from 2019 until 2024 are shown below.


 Traditional fineness marks

Before all fineness marks were required to be numerical, to make them more intelligible internationally, each metal had a traditional symbol. Some jewellers choose to still use these historic marks in addition to the current compulsory numerical mark. 

If you have an older piece made and hallmarked before 1975 you will find the historic traditional marks for Silver or Gold. Platinum did not require hallmarking pre 1975 and the Palladium hallmark was not introduced until 2009 and compulsory from 2010. 


Commemorative Marks

Commemorative Marks are voluntary marks which can be applied in addition to the relevant compulsory marks during very specific periods.  They usually commemorate landmark Royal Occasions but there was  also a special one for the Millennium which could be applied throughout 1999 and 2000.  A further mark is planned for the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2022.

Commemorative Marks are part of the legal hallmark and can only be applied by the Assay Offices during specific approved periods   


Other Marks applied by the Assay Offices but with no legal authority

There are a handful of other marks that you may find which are applied only by the Assay Offices, to keep control of their use, but have no legal standing.

These include marks such as Fairtrade or Fairmined, the NAJ’s Created in the UK and, Birmingham Assay Office’s fundraising Rainbow during 2020 amongst others.

The most frequently used are shown here:


Fairtrade Gold: Offers assurance that the gold has been mined from small scale and artisanal mines following strict requirements for environmental protection, fair labour conditions and economic development in mining communities. Controlled by the Fairtrade Foundation


Fairtrade Eco Mark:  this mark bears an additional ECO symbol to the Fairtrade. This indicates articles have been manufactured using Fairtrade ecological gold, produced without the use of chemicals.


Fairmined: Similar to Fairtrade Gold but managed by the Alliance for Responsible Mining.  Assurance that certifies gold from empowered responsible artisanal and small scale mining organisations.


Created in the UK: An audited NAJ scheme identifying items made in the UK.


Rainbow applied by Birmingham Assay Office during the 2020 COVID pandemic 1st July 2020 until 31st December 2020 to raise funds for NHS Charities

Older items, produced before 1975

The 1973 Act which became law in 1975 replaced a complicated mass of historic rules. Some items were exempt for specific periods. Items that can be proven to have been made prior to 1950 which did not need to be hallmarked at the time can still be described and sold as precious metal without a hallmark.

Full information about historic hallmarks can be found on the individual websites of the current four UK Assay Offices who are all independent of one another.

 9. Assay Office contact details


London Assay Office
Goldsmiths' Hall, Gutter Lane, London EC2V 8AQ
020 7606 8975

Birmingham Assay Office
1 Moreton Street, Birmingham B1 3AX
0121 236 6951

Edinburgh Assay Office
Goldsmiths' Hall, 24 Broughton Street
0131 556 1144

Sheffield Assay Office
Guardians' Hall, Beulah Road, Hillsborough, Sheffield S6 2AN
+44 (0)114 231 2121

The British Hallmarking Council
Sue Green (Secretary)
British Hallmarking Council Secretariat
c/o Shakespeare Martineau
60 Gracechurch Street
United Kingdom
0121 200 3300


Dublin Assay Office
Dublin Castle, Dublin 2
003531 475 1286

10. Frequently Asked Questions

Why can't I find the hallmark?

Is the item underweight and exempt from hallmarking?

The weights below which hallmarking is not required are:

Silver              7.78 grams

Palladium      1.0 gram

Gold               1.0 gram

Platinum        0.5 grams

*NB the exemption weight applies to the precious metal and does not include the actual or estimated weight of any stones or other materials included in the piece

Have you searched the item using a magnifying glass?

Hallmarks have to be applied where they cause the least damage to the product and do not detract from the design, unless they are an integral part of it. They can be as small as 0.75mm so take a good look, preferably under magnification.

Check the fastening, clasp, tongue or jump ring of a bracelet, the bale of a pendant (where it fastens to the chain) the link of a chain and the inside of a ring close to where any stones are set.

On rings an Assay Office will often apply the mark as high up the shoulder as possible so that it won’t be removed if the ring size needs to be altered.

If you still can’t find the hallmark ask your retailer to show you where it is or explain why it doesn’t need one.

If you need more help, contact one of the links at the end of this section. 

Could this be an antique item exempt from hallmarking?

Different rules applied before 1975 and some items, for example gem-set rings were exempt from hallmarking at certain times.

Why is there only a 925?

925 is the recognised symbol for silver but without the additional Sponsor mark and Assay mark this does not constitute a hallmark.

It is possible the item is less than 7.78gms excluding embellishments such as gemstones and therefore does not require a hallmark.

If the article is over 7.78gms it should have a hallmark so check with the seller. If you are not satisfied contact one of the links below.

There is a number 950, but I was sold it as Palladium and this seems to be a Platinum mark

The 950 indicates the amount of precious metal in the alloy used to make the item. So this means the alloy used is 950 parts per thousand or 95% precious metal.

If it is platinum the number will be in a surround shaped like a small house - if its Palladium it will be in three circles (see guide on this page).

It is possible your item was marked in 2009 and has one of the first version of the Palladium marks. These were replaced by the three circles as jewellers were concerned with the similarity between the outline shape for Palladium and Platinum. Both are white metals with similar properties once manufactured and over time it could be difficult to distinguish between the marks.

What is Palladium? I've never heard of it

Palladium belongs to the Platinum group of metals and has similar properties to Platinum

It is very white, does not tarnish and can be formed into jewellery with little addition of base metal elements.

However, it behaves very differently from Platinum when heated and has only become popular in jewellery in the 21st Century as more sophisticated manufacturing techniques have developed.

Palladium is much less dense than Platinum and so the same sized item is significantly lighter. It is currently used mainly for wedding and engagement rings.

Palladium is available in two standards 500 parts per thousand and 950 parts per thousand. It is an expensive commodity so, if comparing prices, ensure you compare like with like. Bear in mind that 950 Palladium will include almost twice the amount of precious metal that a similar piece in 500 Palladium contains.

My jewellery looks like gold but has a silver 925 hallmark - has there been a mistake?

Due to the very high price of gold during the past decade, it has been increasingly popular to make items from sterling silver and finish them with a coating of 9ct or 18ct gold. This is perfectly legal as long as the item is described and sold correctly. The gold coating could be created by a variety of methods with the finished product described as Gold plated, Rolled Gold, Bonded Gold or Vermeil.

The product may be hallmarked as 925 & 9ct or 18ct bonded gold/rolled gold/gold plated whichever applies. It will not carry a gold hallmark. It will carry a silver hallmark if it weighs over 7.78 grams.

 It should be described as, for example, 9ct gold plated silver ring. 

My item has a hallmark with three symbols and then another small fineness mark on its own - what does it mean?

Your item is made of two different precious metals and you should be able to easily identify which is which just by looking at it. This may be a two-coloured item combining, for example, yellow gold and silver or yellow gold and platinum.

The full hallmark will be applied to the metal part considered to be less “noble”.

The order from least noble to most noble is Silver, Palladium, Gold, Platinum. 

So, a 9ct yellow gold and platinum item would have a full 375 hallmark on the gold section and just the platinum fineness mark on the platinum piece.

My item has a whole hallmark with three symbols and then it says "+metal" after it - why is that?

Items may also be made from precious and base metal and again the rule applies.

You must be able to easily identify which part is which. The hallmark will of course relate to the precious metal and will have the words “+ metal” immediately afterwards.

I am looking at a website that has an Assay Assured logo on it - what does that mean?

Assay Assured is a voluntary scheme which offers additional reassurance that a jewellery retailer is compliant with the Hallmarking regulations.

Assay Assured retailers are independently audited by Edinburgh Assay Office to ensure their jewellery has been tested and hallmarked as required. You can buy confidently from an Assay Assured jeweller. A list of jewellers who are currently Assay Assured can be found here Assay Assured Jewellery Retailer

I have never heard of a hallmark - is this a new thing?

No. Hallmarking has been a legal requirement in the UK for nearly 700 years. The details of the laws have changed many times but the basic intention to protect the consumer and the trade has been rigorously enforced over the centuries. The UK’s Hallmarking system is one of the most rigorous in the world. Many countries do not offer the same level of consumer protection that UK hallmarks do. 

Hallmarking protects the customer because it confirms the precious metal content of what they are buying so they cannot be cheated.

Hallmarking protects those selling jewellery, and silverware because competitors cannot undercut each other by putting less precious metal in their products and selling it to customers as more precious than it really is.

I have a white metal wedding and engagement ring which I have been wearing for a few years. It is hallmarked as 18ct gold but there seems to be a plating rubbing off it gradually. Have I been cheated?

No. Pure Gold is naturally a strong buttery yellow. 18ct Gold is 75% gold so the jeweller has only 25% of the alloy to make it white. Depending on what other whitening metals are added to the mix the result may be a little dull or grey. The Hallmarking Act allows white gold to be plated with rhodium, an extremely expensive Platinum group metal which adds the bright white finish you are looking for.

Your rings can be re-plated at a Jeweller’s to make them good as new.

My ring has an anchor hallmark - does it mean that it was made in Birmingham?

No. The Four UK assay marks indicate which Assay Office tested and applied the hallmark but this no longer bears any relation to where it was made. Since 1999, the hallmarking system has not differentiated between items made overseas or in the UK. Your ring has been tested and hallmarked by the Birmingham Assay Office but could have been made anywhere in the world.

When, where and how is the item tested?

The process is similar at all four of the UK Assay Offices and also at Assay Offices operating outside the UK whose marks are recognised in the UK.

The item must be tested by an independent Assay Office and must be at least the fineness stated.

So, if an item is to be described and sold as 9ct gold, which should be 375 parts per thousand pure gold it must be AT LEAST 375 parts gold. If it is only 374 it will be rejected. The strict rules apply to every component and also to the solder. There are also set criteria for working parts such as springs which cannot be made from precious metal. 

Most items are now tested using modern technology such as X Ray Fluorescence but traditional methods such as Touchstone Testing and cupellation are also used.

This short film explains the testing process further. Its just 1 minute 39 seconds long. Take a look...


When, where and how is the item hallmarked?

An item may be tested (assayed) and hallmarked whilst the components are still separate, or when the item is partially completed or when it is fully finished and polished and sometimes partly in its final packaging. The increased percentage of items being made overseas has necessitated the Assay Offices developing new technology to both test and apply marks without damaging the item

Marking methods vary between Assay Offices and range from hand marking with a handheld punch and hammer to using a hydraulic or hand operated press. Delicate finished items or those with very little space for a hallmark may have the hallmark applied by laser.

This short film demonstrates the application of marks in more detail. Lots to learn in 2 minutes 4 seconds

I have recently bought jewellery that I believe should be hallmarked, but isn't - what can I do?

Depending upon when and where you bought the item you have various options.

  • Return to the retailer and ask why there is no hallmark
  • Send images of the item to your local Assay Office – details are on this page – and ask for their advice and opinion
  • Send images to the NAJ
  • Contact your local Registered Valuer and ask their advice.
Jewellery which I have inherited or received does not have a hallmark - where can I get it checked?

Depending upon the type of jewellery there are various options:

  • Contact a local NAJ jeweller or a Registered Valuer. The price of precious metals is currently very high so it will be worth having it valued too.
  • Find a Jeweller
  • Find a Valuer

Many retailers have valuers they work with who have specific expertise in different fields

  • If you know it to be an old piece – pre 1975 - look for a specialist antique jeweller who deals in antiques who will have specific knowledge about historic hallmarks.