In the United Kingdom, hallmarking serves as an official quality control mark of a precious metal’s authenticity, and is now a legal requirement. Although hallmarks have been placed on gold and silver products in England since the 14th century, palladium was not legally required to have hallmarks until the Hallmarking Act was amended in 2009, with the changes coming into effect in 2010. I’ve put together this simple palladium hallmark guide, which I hope you find useful.
Palladium is a relative newcomer in terms of metallurgy, only being discovered by British chemist William Hyde Wollaston in 1803. Compare that to gold and silver, which have both been known to man since antiquity, and platinum, which was first mentioned in European literature in 1557.
Most of the supply of palladium goes towards the manufacture of catalytic converters in the automotive industry. This is its main industrial use, and the incredible spikes in the price of the precious metal is the main reason why many motorists have found their catalytic converters have been nicked from their car. Note – we don’t purchase auto-cat material!
Aside from its industrial use, palladium is a useful precious metal to use in jewellery, both on its own and as an excellent bleaching agent to create white gold. In this regard, it holds the advantage over nickel in that it’s strongly hypoallergenic. It’s also used as an investment article, being available in bullion coins and bullion bars, but the market for investment palladium is dwarfed by gold and silver.
Although palladium was not legally required to be hallmarked before 2010, some palladium items were. Standard alloy hallmarks in millesimal fineness were 500, 950 and 999, set inside a trapezium. The traditional fineness symbol for fine palladium is the Greek goddess Athena, who allegedly gained the epithet pallas after she killed him in battle, and is what the precious metal is named after. Athena can still be seen on modern palladium as an optional hallmark.
The similarities in colour between platinum and palladium caused confusion, which was not helped by the fact that the hallmarks for both metals consisted of shapes with straight lines. Platinum hallmarks are made of a ‘house’ shape as below, which is almost indistinguishable when the two different metals are compared against each other.
Concerns around the similarity of the fineness hallmarks for platinum and palladium led to an amendment to the Hallmark Act 1973 which brought palladium under the umbrella of official hallmarking requirements. As such, the following hallmarks are compulsory on palladium:
This denotes the manufacturer of the palladium jewellery. Each registered mark is unique and can represent an individual or a company. Between 2 and 5 initials can be used inside a surrounding shield shape. It comprises of the initials chosen by that individual or firm inside a surrounding shield shape. The shape of the shield can vary, but most take the form of a rectangle. Below is an example of a sponsor’s mark from the London Assay Office.
Millesimal fineness, ie. parts per thousand, was made compulsory on gold, silver and platinum products in 1999. This also includes palladium when it was brought under the legislation in 2010. The shape of the surrounding shield is an indicator of the precious metal. In this case, three round ovals representing palladium surround the three-digit fineness figure, which is either 500, 950 and 999.
This stamp tells you which assay office tested and hallmarked the item. Today there are four official assay offices in the United Kingdom: London, Sheffield, Birmingham and Edinburgh. Historically there were 11 assay offices in the British Isles, but by 1965 there were only five: the four UK offices and the Dublin Assay office in the Republic of Ireland. It’s very likely that any palladium jewellery in the UK will have the assay office marks shown below.
Although not compulsory under current legislation, assay offices will occasionally include traditional stamps on their hallmarks, such as the letter stamp (not required since 2010), the fineness symbol (officially replaced by millesimal fineness in 1999) and the international convention mark (common control mark, recognised by the UK in 1972). See the examples above of the optional stamps used on some palladium hallmarks.
So, palladium articles manufactured and sold after 2010 in the UK will have at least three stamps on their hallmark. A common pattern with British hallmarks now is to have the three compulsory stamps plus the traditional fineness symbol and the letter stamp denoting the year. You might also be able to spot a common control stamp, depending if the item was intended to be sold/exported internationally. Commemorative marks also exist, such as Queen Elizabeth II’s numerous jubilee hallmarks and King Charles III’s accession hallmark.
Have you got some unwanted palladium items? Gold Traders UK offer some of the best prices in the country for scrap palladium. Coins, rings, bangles, medals, bars, necklaces – you name it, we buy it.
Have a look at our ‘How it Works’ page for more details on the process. Selling your scrap palladium by post or in person at our secure trade counter in Royal Wootton Bassett is straightforward and simple – it could be the easiest cash you’ve ever made!
Palladium isn’t a new metal; it was discovered back in 1803, and for over a decade has been one of the constituent metals in vehicle catalytic converters. Yet its use in jewellery has been relatively limited until recently. Now palladium is highly valued – Gold Traders currently pays £
Palladium is a precious metal with a natural white colour, which is particularly in demand for today’s jewellery trends. In this respect it’s similar to platinum, but as palladium is less dense it costs considerably less.
White gold isn’t truly white. The alloy mix is simply altered to reduce the amount of copper and increase the amount of zinc and silver. Doing so makes the final alloy a more pale yellow colour. To achieve the whiteness, white gold is given a plating of rhodium. Over time, the rhodium plating can wear away, thus revealing the yellow metal underneath.
Ultimately palladium may not have the cachet and exclusivity of gold or platinum, yet it is genuinely a precious metal. With the symbol Pd and atomic number 46, it’s in the same periodic table as platinum and rhodium.
Palladium’s lower density compared to platinum or gold means it can be used to make jewellery that’s larger with greater visual impact, yet not any heavier. This is a notable advantage for items such as earrings, where heavy pieces can soon feel uncomfortable.
With roughly half the density of platinum and about two-thirds that of gold, palladium is the perfect answer to the present trend for bigger, more conspicuous pieces. Its white colouring adds to its appeal – couples who like the look of platinum wedding rings but find them unaffordable, are often happy to have them made from palladium, with the end result looking remarkably similar.
Back in the 1930s, palladium was mostly used as an annealing alloy to turn gold white. Subsequent technical advances in casting have seen this precious metal increasingly used in its own right, for its unique qualities.
Once annealed, palladium is soft and easy to work, yet it hardens more quickly than other precious metals. It has no ‘memory’ – in other words, once set, it retains its new shape without trying to spring back to its original form. Palladium has the lowest melting point of the platinum group metals to which it belongs (the others are platinum, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium and osmium), and temperatures above 400°C can cause discolouration, so jewellers are careful in their use of heat when working with it.
From early 2000, the price of platinum steadily increased from £175/g ($330/g) to a high of over £1,183/g ($2,270/g). This price rise focused attention on alternative metals, particularly palladium.
As prices for gold and platinum have continued to rise, palladium has become increasingly attractive. The Chinese were quick to develop the market for palladium jewellery, and by mass-producing pieces, have caused palladium values to strengthen. It remains, however, more affordable than gold and platinum.
The consequence of hallmarking is that palladium is now seen as even more respected and desirable, with a resulting increase in demand from jewellers and consumers. In fact, nearly 40,000 palladium pieces were hallmarked in the six months following the introduction of UK hallmarking.
With an increasing demand for palladium jewellery, and its continuing use in catalytic converters, electronics, aviation components, dentistry and even musical instruments, the value of palladium will at the very least be stable. The most likely outcome is that the relatively small annual supplies, which are prone to political disturbances, will make palladium more valuable – literally a precious metal.
Unsure of the weight or type of gold you have? No problem! Simply complete our simple online claim form and send us your scrap gold for a free, no-obligation quote.
© Copyright Gold-Traders (UK) Ltd 2015. All rights reserved.
Company Registration Number: 6521732Registered Office: 143 High Street, Royal Wootton Bassett, SN4 7AB