What are Jewellery Hallmarks and Trademarks?

Ever wonder what some of those little markings on your Jewellery might be? Of course there’s the Karat marks on your gold, but there’s sometimes also maybe an initial or logo. Here’s what they mean:

A hallmark is a country sanctioned, guarantee of quality mark. In the United States and Canada there are no hallmarking laws but in Europe the home of some of the worlds oldest and finest jewels it is. A trademark on the other hand is a maker’s or responsibility mark again in Canada there is no legal requirement to apply symbols or words which specify precious metal content to precious metal jewellery but every once in awhile we get some Jewellery in that has these either or both of these marks and people often ask us what they are and what they mean.

Hallmarks a seal of approval

Often in the process of creating fine  jewellery the mixing of other metals into pure gold and silver define the karat of the gold and purity of the silver.  In the late 13th century to protect the public from the rampant fraud of under-karating, King Henry the III of England introduced into law a basic system that would guarantee an item’s purity. All gold and silversmiths were not to make any item with a lower standard than the king’s money, which was 22kt for gold and 925 for silver.  It was ordered that every item made be taken to their local Goldsmith Hall where master assayers tested as to the fineness claimed by the maker.  The first mark in use at that time was the leopard’s head wearing a crown.  With time more marks were added and other countries followed with the practice of “Hallmarking”.  A few of the Hallmark stamps would  be to identify  the type of precious metal, fineness, city or town of the assay office and the year it was hallmarked.

Trademarks a signature by the creator

Walters Art Museum [Public domain, CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Old School Arabic Makers Mark from 1783 AD

Trademarking is the practice of marking an item made of any material with the signature or logo of the maker, manufacturer or sponsor.  In many countries, the maker’s mark is the responsibility mark representing the responsibility of that maker to guarantee the quality of the items as marked. Think of it as the Nike swoosh logo except it is stamped or branded into the metal.

In Canada the trademark may not be mandatory on precious metal items, but if a maker chooses to place a fineness or standard mark (14k, 18K etc.) on an item, then it is mandatory that there be a mark from the maker to show who is responsible for the guarantee of claimed fineness, kind of like a guarantor’s signature of quality. Markings must be authorized by the Precious Metals Marking Regulations and applied in the manner specified by same  including a trademark that has been applied for or registered.

So if you ever see any of those little markings on your jewellery don’t worry it’s not the mark of pirates or anything. It’s actually a good sign that whomever made the piece took pride in what they made and let us know on Facebook or Twitter if you’ve ever found any strange Hallmarks or Trademarks on your jewellery!

Till Next time!