Hallmarking is the oldest form of consumer protection and dates back to the 12th Century. A hallmark ensures that the buyer has a guarantee of the precious metal content of an item they are buying. It can also be seen as a historical ‘code’, a story stamped on your piece of jewellery. Each hallmark consists of a sponsor’s or marker’s mark, a fineness mark and an assay office mark. Optional marks are the date mark, the convention mark and traditional fineness symbols. From the standard hallmark, we can see who made a piece of jewellery, what metal it is made of and where it was stamped. A date letter can also help us pinpoint the date of manufacture.

Photo by Alex Robson for Elements

Have a go at Hand Marking at Elements! Photo by Alex Robson for Elements

Hallmarks can only be applied by an Assay Office. Today there are four remaining assay office in the UK – Edinburgh, Sheffield, Birmingham and London. The Edinburgh Assay Office is one of the most innovative, technologically advanced and fastest growing Assay Offices in Europe. As a not for profit organisation, all surplus revenues from the Assay Office go to help fund the work of the Incorporation of Goldsmiths of the City of Edinburgh. This virtuous circle ensures that both the buyer and the maker benefit from the process.

Amid an industry of evolving technology, Edinburgh Assay Office’s ‘Master Marker’, Charlie Munro, is responsible for safeguarding and nurturing the traditional skills of hand marking within the office. Charlie will be offering hand marking demonstrations during Elements. As a hallmark can only be applied by an assay office on site, Charlie will demonstrate the skilled use of a hammer and punch to apply a specially made Elements logo mark. This technique has changed little since the introduction of hallmarking over 700 years ago.

Come and find out more about this fascinating tradition and have a go yourself at Elements Festival 3 in November 2017!

Find out about Hallmarking Demos at Elements