A third of “gold” jewellery advertised online could be fake.


That was this month’s warning from the British Hallmarking Council after an online trawl found 37 per cent of items sold as gold had no hallmark and may not be made from gold at all. It’s illegal to sell items made of gold, silver, platinum or palladium in the UK that are not hallmarked to guarantee authenticity and quality.

The safest way to ensure an item is genuinely made from the metal stated is to check if it has a UK hallmark. Four assay offices do that job: in London, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Sheffield.Each has its own mark.

A leopard head for London, a castle for Edinburgh, a rose for Sheffield and an anchor for Birmingham.

If the anchor has a compass symbol by it, then it has been applied in Mumbai, where Birmingham Assay Office has a branch. The mark will also show how much of the precious metal is in the item – the “fineness”.

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A lion, for example, indicates sterling silver, which is 92.5 per cent pure and the number 916 in an oblong octagon indicates 22 carat gold (91.67 per cent pure). If the oblong has 375 in it, the gold content is just 37.5 per cent, barely a third gold.

There will also be a maker’s mark and usually a date letter to indicate the year it was assayed: 2019 is a lower-case “u”.

These rules apply equally in markets and on the internet. Always ask to see the hallmark – with a magnifying glass if needed – and get the dealer to explain it.

Very light items need not be hallmarked – the limits are 1g for gold and palladium, 0.5g for platinum and 7.78g for silver. Coins are exempt from hallmarking.

Items from some European countries may be sold with what is called a Common Control Mark or a national mark accepted in the UK.

But it is always safest to buy items with a genuine UK hallmark. For more information visit gov.uk and search “British Hallmarking Council” and “hallmarking”
or assayofficelondon.co.uk and search “dealers notice for display” and follow links. For information about valid foreign marks, go to hallmarkingconvention.org