In the guide
This guidance is for England, Scotland & Wales
Selling and buying jewellery and other articles of gold, silver, platinum and palladium (precious metals) is controlled by the Hallmarking Act 1973.
Any article made of a precious metal must contain an approved hallmark.
It is an offence to apply the description gold, silver, platinum or palladium (precious metal) to an article or supply or offer to supply an article described as a precious metal if the description is not true.
It is not an offence to describe an article as plated with a precious metal provided the description is true. It is also permitted to use the description rolled gold if the description is true.
An approved hallmark is one that has been applied to an article made of precious metal by a United Kingdom assay office.
The UK is part of the International Convention on Hallmarks; all member countries can apply the 'common control mark', which will then be accepted in all other member countries.
Hallmarks from countries in the European Economic Area are also accepted.
An article is considered to be unhallmarked if it does not bear the approved hallmarks and a sponsor's mark or if a hallmarked article has been the subject of an improper repair.
Only registered sponsors' marks may be used as part of the hallmarking process for new articles.
Any article of precious metal submitted to a UK assay office must have the following marks applied:
- sponsor's mark (indicating who submitted the article for hallmarking)
- assay office mark (identifying which office tested the item)
- fineness mark (confirming the precious metal composition)
There are two optional marks that can be added:
- pictorial mark (such as the sterling silver lion)
- date letter (the style of the letter determines the date)
If you wish to have an article of precious metal struck with the approved hallmarks by an assay office, you must first have it struck with an authorised sponsor's mark. Alternatively, you can arrange for an assay office to strike your sponsor's mark when they strike the approved hallmarks. The sponsor's mark indicates the maker of the item or the person who commissioned it and must be registered with the assay office.Back to top
There are some exemptions to the requirement to hallmark items of precious metal. These include coins and articles that would be damaged by the hallmarking process.
There are also exemptions for items under a specified weight which varies depending upon the precious metal. An item is exempt if it weighs less than:
- 1.00 g for gold
- 7.78 g for silver
- 0.50 g for platinum
- 1.00 g for palladium
Any person that deals in precious metals must display on their premises, in a conspicuous position, a Hallmarking Act 1973 notice as approved by the British Hallmarking Council.
An example of a dealers' notice can be found on the London Assay Office website.
Notices may be obtained from one of the assay offices based in Edinburgh, Birmingham, London or Sheffield.Back to top
The weighing of precious metals for sale or for purchase is strictly regulated by the Weights and Measures Act 1985. Weighing instruments used to determine the weight of precious metals for sale or purchase must be approved and exhibit the appropriate Government stickers. Only weighing instruments of class I or class II can be used for the sale or purchase of precious metals.
See 'Weighing equipment for legal use' for more information.Back to top
Nickel, lead & cadmium
Nickel, lead and cadmium are considered to be undesirable contaminants in jewellery and their content is strictly controlled by the REACH Enforcement Regulations 2008 (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals).
See 'Jewellery safety: metal content' for more information.Back to top
The British Hallmarking Council has produced Hallmarking Guidance Notes, which are available on the GOV.UK website.Back to top
Failure to comply with trading standards law can lead to enforcement action and to sanctions, which may include a fine and/or imprisonment. For more information please see 'Trading standards: powers, enforcement & penalties'.Back to top
Last reviewed / updated: November 2018