The Origins of
The Goldsmiths' Company, which operates the London Assay
Office, is the oldest hallmarking authority in the United Kingdom.
Hallmarking represents one of the earliest form of consumer protection.
A hallmark is a series of marks applied to gold, silver and platinum
articles. It indicates that the article has been independently tested at
an Assay Office and guarantees that it conforms to the legal standards
of precious metal content, known as the fineness.
A hallmark indicates at least three facts:
Who made the article - the initials of the maker
What the metal is, and its purity - the fineness mark
Where it was tested (Assayed) and marked - the Assay Office mark
The Leopard's Head is the mark of the London Assay Office and has been
in continuous use since 1300, when the Wardens of the Company were given
responsibility for marking gold and silver wares, which passed assay,
with the King's mark of the Leopard's Head.
Still based in Goldsmiths' Hall, and using the most up-to-date
technology, the London Assay Office hallmarks several million articles
every year. It is also the Secretariat of the Association of European
Hallmarking is now carried out under the statutory jurisdiction of the
Hallmarking Act 1973. The Act also established the British Hallmarking
Council. The Council has various powers and duties regarding
hallmarking, which include ensuring adequate assaying and hallmarking
facilities in the UK.
The fineness of the precious metal content of jewellery and silverware
is expressed in parts per thousand. Sterling silver is indicated by 925,
which means it is 92.5% silver.
The current legislation, which empowers the Goldsmiths' Company to
operate the London Assay Office, is the Hallmarking Act 1973. Following
amendments to the Act in January 1999, the sponsor's mark, fineness mark
and Assay Office mark remain compulsory. But the letter indicating the
year of hallmarking, which had been in use from 1478, is now a voluntary
mark, as are the traditional fineness symbols, the Lion Passant for 925
Silver, Britannia for 958 Silver and the Orb for 950 platinum.
An article cannot be described as being of gold, silver or platinum
unless it is hallmarked, or the article weighs less than 0.5 grams in
platinum, 1 gram in gold or 7.78 grams in silver.
Above Hallmarked explained, SMG is the maker's mark, the Leopards Head
is London, the Lion is Sterling Silver and lastly the letter is the date
mark which in this case is 1971 the year I started my Craft. More
information about Hallmarking is available on the Links page