Monday 8 November, 2021

The importance of Hallmarking on Antiques Roadshow

On Sunday 7 November, Antiques Roadshow took a trip to Birmingham’s Aston Hall. Included in this fascinating episode was a segment on the importance of hallmarking and what to look out for when buying precious jewellery by Antiques Roadshow Jewellery Expert and Goldsmiths’ Company member Joanna Hardy. 

By introducing us to three supposedly identical gold rings Joanna surprised her audience by explaining that two of these ‘gold’ bands were in fact brass with gold plate and only one of these rings was genuine gold. To discover the difference between the genuine and the fake, Joanna introduced us to the full UK hallmark.

Comprising the maker’s/sponsor’s mark, gold fineness number, assay mark and date letter; the full UK hallmark does not just confirm the quality and fineness of the metal but also allows us to date the work, name its maker and discover where the piece was made. For the hallmark to be applied this has to be done at one of the four UK assay offices in London, Birmingham, Sheffield or Edinburgh. Joanna stated that the hallmark exists to protect consumers, so that we can confidently purchase precious metals.

As of 1950 it has been a legal requirement that all precious jewellery and metalwork be sold with a full UK hallmark. However, Joanna pointed out that this requirement does not stop the misdescriptions of some pieces – especially those that are sold online – and that the description of something as ‘gold’ still does not confirm its legitimacy. This can only be done through the presence of a hallmark.

Find out more about hallmarking at the Goldsmiths' Company Assay Office.

Watch the Antiques Roadshow episode below.

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