Please note that this guide covers precious metals and hallmarking within the United Kingdom. Other countries have different standards and legal requirements but it would be impossible to cover them all here.
In the UK it is illegal to sell or describe any item as Gold, Silver, Platinum or Palladium unless it is hallmarked – although there are exemptions for items under a certain weight.
Silver has a long history of use in jewellery. It is often used in fashion jewellery, and is more affordable compared to other metals used in fine jewellery.
It is one of the brightest metals used in jewellery and can be polished to a mirror-like shine. Pure silver is a very soft metal, so most silver used in jewellery is alloyed, usually with the addition of copper to give more durability.
If an item made of silver weighs more than 7.78 grams it must carry a full hallmark for silver, for items under this weight they must be stamped “925”.
Silver will naturally build up a layer of tarnish over time, but this can be easily removed with some very gentle cleaning with a lint-free cloth. Silver tarnishes due to sulphur dioxide and other pollutants in the air reacting with the metal’s surface. It can also be damaged by strong chemicals including chlorine and bleach.
- .925 – Sterling Silver – 92.5% Silver, 7.5% Copper
- .958 – Britannia – 95.8% Silver, 4.2% Copper
- .999 – Fine Silver – Pure Silver
Gold is a timeless metal, revered in many cultures throughout history for its charm and beauty. It can be worked into many different forms and takes on many different surface finishes such as polished, matte and brushed effects. Gold is a metal that does not tarnish or rust so will look beautiful for a lifetime, however like silver it is vulnerable to strong chemicals such as bleach and chlorine.
Pure gold is a very soft metal which can be damaged easily so it is usually alloyed with other metals to create jewellery. Not only do metals such as silver, palladium and copper increase the strength and durability of gold, it can also be used to change the appearance – for example white and rose gold can create beautiful coloured hues by changing the proportions of other metals.
Carats (ct) are the measure of the gold content of metals and is expressed in parts of gold per 1000. In the UK most gold jewellery sold is commonly 9ct and 18ct purity, although 24ct is also popular. Pure gold is 24ct but is prone to damage and scratches. The higher the amount of alloy metals used in 9ct and 18ct gold generally improves the durability of jewellery and makes it more affordable.
Any gold jewellery that weighs over 1 gram must carry a hallmark, with a fineness or purity marking also stamped.
- 375 – 9 Carat
- 585 – 14 Carat
- 750 – 18 Carat
- 916 – 22 Carat
- 999 – 24 Carat