We’ve all seen it – a 925 stamp on silver. How many of us have assumed it means it must be sterling silver? Precious metals, including silver, have risen enormously in price over the last five years. It is little wonder that along with the rise in price, comes a rise in counterfeit metals that look like their precious metal counter-parts, but are of a far lesser quality. A legitimate hallmark eliminates the risk of buying a fake.
What is a hallmark and why is it important?
Put simply, hallmarking is the guarantee that you have when buying precious metals that they are not fraudulent. At a time when precious metal prices are at an all-time high, counterfeiting is becoming more and more prevalent. Metals that appear to be sterling silver can often be substituted by poorer quality alloys. An Assay Office hallmark is the only way of ensuring you are actually getting what you are paying for.
Is a 925 stamp the same as a silver hallmark?
No, it isn’t. Anyone, anywhere can stamp a piece of metal with 925. It is no guarantee that the metal is actually of sterling silver standard.
So what does a hallmark look like?
A hallmark is made up of three compulsory marks; the Sponsor’s Mark, the Fineness Mark and the Assay Office Mark.
- The Sponsor’s Mark is the registered mark of the company that submits the article for hallmarking. For example, SG is the sponsor mark for Seres Gifts Limited.
- The Fineness Mark tells you the precious metal content, expressed in parts per thousand. Sterling silver is recognised by the figure 925, indicating that it is 92.5% silver. The Assay Office Mark tells you which of the four Assay Offices tested and hallmarked the piece.
- The Assay Offices in London, Birmingham, Sheffield and Edinburgh all work independently, but to the same exacting standards. Seres Gifts uses Birmingham for its assaying and Birmingham’s anchor symbol forms part of our hallmark.
There are some additional optional marks such as the date letter which may also be present, but the three marks mentioned above are compulsory.
Should all my silver be hallmarked?
The sale of new silver in the UK legislates that any piece of silver sold weighing over 7.78 grams must by law have an Assay Office hallmark indicating the precious metal content. Anyone who sells precious metals and contravenes the law may be prosecuted and could even face imprisonment.
So is sterling silver British then?
Not necessarily. This is one of the most common misconceptions about a sterling silver. Sterling silver is representative of the precious metal content of the piece, not the country of origin. If the silver is deemed by an Assay Office to be 925 parts silver to every 1000 parts, it is then struck with the 925 sterling silver stamp. However, the silver in the object can have originated anywhere. The controlling factor is that the Assay Office has guaranteed the quality of the piece, ensuring your piece of mind.
Seres Gifts only sells sterling silver and, as mentioned earlier, we use the Birmingham Assay Office for all our hallmarking requirements. We never compromise on quality and our silver will regularly out-weigh any of our competitor’s pieces. Our craftsmanship is superb and incredible care is taken to ensure attention to details in all our silver lines.
I very much hope that this helps clear up much of the confusion that surrounds sterling silver and hallmarking. If you wish to gain more information regarding hallmarking, visit www.bis.gov.uk/britishhallmarkingcouncil