Gold hallmarks or the hallmarking of precious metals, was one of the first measures taken to protect the consumer against fraud. It was introduced back in 1300 by Edward 1 and is still as necessary today as it was back then. Gold and silver are relatively soft metals. So items of jewellery are normally made from an alloy. Gold or silver is mixed with copper or other base metals. To create an alloy that is more suitable for jewellery. Silver was the first precious metal to be hallmarked. Which was then followed by gold hallmarks. In 1363, the manufacturers mark began to be added to the hallmark. The manufacturers mark was originally pictorial, but was later replaced with the makers initials.
The term used to measure the purity of gold contained in an alloy is called the karat. A carat spelled with a C is the term used to measure the weight of precious stones. The table below shows the karat, purity and stamp use in gold hallmarks.
Gold Hallmarks – Date Letters
From 1773 onwards, a date letter was added to gold hallmarks. The date letter started with A for the year 1773. And was normally changed annually until a complete alphabet had been used, which was in 1890. The system then started again using the letter A in a different style and with a different surrounding shield.
Gold Hallmarks – Maker Marks
To prevent fraudulent activities in the hallmarking of gold and silver. In 1363 all silver and goldsmiths were ordered to register their pictorial mark. This mark was to be stamped on all of their work. And in doing so, it made their items traceable. At that time a fraudulent hallmark was punishable by death. In 1739 these pictorial maker marks. Where replaced with the makers initials.
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