In the guide

Note: this guidance represents the law, as we understand it, after the post-Brexit transition period, which ends on 31 December 2020; it may be subject to change before that time.

This guidance is for England, Scotland and 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.

An article may be described 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.

Approved hallmarks

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, provided they were applied before the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020. From 1 January 2021 the UK will not accept any new items from EU countries that are not members of the International Convention on Hallmarks.

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)
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Sponsors' marks

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.

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Exemptions

There are some exemptions from 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 g for gold
  • 7.78 g for silver
  • 0.5 g for platinum
  • 1 g for palladium
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Dealers' notice

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.

Dealers' notices may be downloaded from the websites of any of the assay offices, which are based in Birmingham, Edinburgh, London and Sheffield.

If this electronic version of the dealer's notice is printed for shop use, it must meet the following criteria:

  • printed in black and white
  • clearly legible
  • printed in its entirety with no amendments, additions or deletions
  • printed minimum A4 size (210 mm x 297 mm portrait)
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Weighing instruments

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 - from 1 January 2021' for more information.

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Nickel, lead and cadmium

Nickel, lead and cadmium are considered to be undesirable contaminants in jewellery and their content is strictly controlled.

See 'Jewellery safety: metal content' for more information.

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Further information

The British Hallmarking Council has produced guidance on hallmarking requirements from 1 January 2021, which is available on the GOV.UK website.

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Penalties

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 and penalties'.

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Key legislation

Hallmarking Act 1973

Consumer Rights Act 2015

 

Last reviewed / updated: September 2020

Please note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.

The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab.

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Consumer enquiries from England, Scotland and Wales are handled by the Citizens Advice Consumer Service who can be contacted by telephone on 03454 04 05 06. Consumer enquiries in Northern Ireland are handled by ConsumerLine who can be contacted by telephone on 0300 1236262. Call charges may vary.

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