Hallmarking your work – where to start.

If you start selling your silver jewellery to the general public it will need to be hallmarked. Hallmarking is done at the Assay Office, the nearest one to Silverpetal studio is the Sheffield office. The address is: Guardian’s Hall, Beulah Road, Hillsborough, Sheffield, S6 2AN.

Set-up costs

To have items marked you would normally have your own maker’s mark put on to a punch. This is then registered by – and kept at the Assay Office. Your maker’s mark is usually your initials. At first glance it looks like there are fairly high set-up costs for this. There is a one-off payment to have a punch made, then a registration fee to have your mark registered. This does however last for 10 years so the initial cost pro-rata, will become fairly low if it is going to be used regularly. At the end of this initial 10 years a renewal fee is then charged to re-register your mark for a further 10 years. This re-registration fee is a fairly low cost.

Send in a number of pieces

There is a minimum fee charged for hallmarking, so stock pile your work – don’t send one piece at a time. As an approximation- a mixture of 20 items like rings or pendants would possibly reach the minimum fee level. So if you send in one ring, it would probably cost the same to be marked as 20 rings. Prices published by the Assay Office are usually plus VAT.

Testing your metal!

Before your work is Assayed it will be tested to make sure that it is made out of the metal you’ve declared. To do this – small scrapings of metal are removed from the obvious different components of your work. So it is a good idea to send items for marking prior to the finishing stage. Make your items up in total – soldered together, but leave any filing, the finishing and polishing until it is returned. Excessive amounts of solder could be removed as this could lower the grade of the metal, but leave any burrs on.  The hallmark will also show faintly on the front of the work so will always have to be cleaned up on its return. The office will want to check any findings intended for the piece like chains or ear-wires so send these along with your work.

Make the right mark

It is a good idea to mark with a coloured marker pen where you would like your items to be marked. During the marking process your item will be struck with your maker’s mark and the Assay Office marks. Actual punches are used to create the hallmark. These punches are similar to using a centre punch or lettering punches and the marks can sometimes be quite deep. When I first started selling I occasionally had work returned hallmarked on the front of the piece. These marks had to be filed off and the pieces re-sent to be done again. This is not ideal as the metal can become quite weak if it is thinned from the front by filing off the un-wanted marks, then struck from the back again with the Assay punches.

Laser marking

Laser marking can be done on items that are an awkward shape. This is usually an additional price on top of normal punched marking so check up first. I have found that these marks can also be quite faint, so specify on the order if you would like deep marks.

A weight issue

Silver items under a certain weight – approximately 7.78grams* do not legally have to be marked with a registered hallmark to be sold in the UK. A 925 stamp can be purchased from HS Walsh and you can stamp small items yourself. However, when I was at the height of my making and selling I used to send everything I made as a matter of course. I found it was a great selling point to point out the Sheffield hallmark and my maker’s mark. If you are regularly making a lot of pieces you will find it easier to reach the minimum order quantity if you send all your work. *This weight exemption is different for different metals.

Hall Marking Mixed metals

A marking scheme was introduced several years ago to encompass mixed metals within items. This has made it easier to make jewellery for shops and galleries with mixed metals on the same piece, including base metals like copper and brass. If your work features this it may be worth enquiring about this at the Assay office. There are still certain requirements that need to be met for the item to be marked.

Assay Office website

All the information here is correct to the best of my knowledge. It is based upon my own personal experiences of hallmarking my own work over the last 20 years. But please go to the Assay Office website for up-to-date information, legal requirements and prices at https://www.assayoffice.co.uk

The Assay Office website has extensive information about marking mixed metals and tables of prices. There’s also downloads about their services and info about how to apply for and register your own mark. There is lots of information about Hallmarking history and how it all began. So it is well worth taking a look.

Getting your own maker’s mark gives a professional finishing touch to your work and is a very satisfying ‘next’ step along the road to jewellery making and selling. Good luck!

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