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!
Unlike British hallmarking (which is mandatory for all items of gold jewellery weighing more than 1g), gold jewellery made in India does not have to be hallmarked or assayed. For the consumer, there is therefore no guarantee that an item purchased contains the correct quantity of gold, or in-fact, any gold at all!
If you have gold to sell, don’t forget to check out our up-to-date scrap gold prices.
Occasionally, we’ll receive an item bought in Asia in good faith, seemingly stamped as being gold, but being fake.
It is common to see Indian (and Asian) jewellery marked as ’22kt’, but when tested may only be between 87% to 88% pure, the equivalent of 21ct gold. This could be down to the quantity of solder used in intricate items (solder is often of a lower purity) or the jeweller simply using slightly less gold to increase their margin.
A 22ct gold bangle with a BIS hallmark
Like a British hallmark, the BIS mark is made-up of a series of elements:
Bureau of Indian Standards mark
This is the official BIS logo. Jewellers who want to use the BIS mark must obtain a licence and adhere to strict guidlines relating to the purity of marked items.
The BIS recognise the following gold purities:
This mark identifies where the item of jewellery has been assayed and hallmarked.
The date letter shows the year the item was hallmarked. Starting in 2000 with the letter ‘A’ and moving up one letter each year, it is easy to work out the correct date. In our example photo above, the date letter ‘L’ tells us the bangle was assayed in 2011.
This mark identifies the BIS certified jeweller / manufacturer of the item.
Related article: Bureau of Indian Standards hallmarking
Platinum hallmarking was introduced in the UK in 1975 as a result of legislation brought about by the Hallmarking Act of 1973. Prior to this date, items containing platinum would often carry no markings or simply ‘Plat’ or ‘Platinum’ and would be of varying purity.
A typical platinum hallmark
All platinum items weighing more than 0.5 grams must now carry a valid hallmark when sold in the UK. The photo on the right shows a typical hallmark. A platinum hallmark will consist of 3 compulsory and 3 optional stamps.
This post is a simple platinum hallmark guide, which we hope you find useful. If you have platinum to sell, please see our up-to-date scrap platinum prices. We also publish our scrap gold prices and our scrap silver prices.
Also referred to as the makers mark, the first stamp in the photo indicates who submitted the item for hallmarking. Each sponsor (maker) has their own unique stamp.
The third stamp in our example photo is the fineness mark. This tells you the precious metal content, expressed in parts per thousand. There are four recognised standards of platinum:
When identifying an item as being platinum, it’s important to check the shape and contents of the fineness mark. If the shape is anything other than what is shown below, it isn’t platinum. As you can see, our ring is 950 platinum.
The assay office mark tells you which assay office tested and hallmarked your item. There are now four assay offices in the UK:
The following 3 marks are all optional. Under hallmarking legislation, there is no compulsorary requirement to show these additional marks, however they are often shown.
If your platinum item has a purity of 950 or 999, it may display the traditional orb mark. In our example photograph, you can see the second stamp is the traditional fineness symbol.
Date letters are optional and therefore not always seen (as in our example photograph). The date letter tells us the year the item was hallmarked. As date letters were standardised across all assay offices from 1975, it’s quite easy to read. Below is a chart of all date letters from 1975 onwards.
Standardised UK hallmark date letters from 1975 onwards
An International Convention Mark is sometimes shown within the hallmark. It is a mark recognised by all member countries of the International Hallmarking Convention.
Without a valid hallmark, most jewellers and small scale gold buyers will not be able to accurately test the purity of platinum jewellery. Due to its inherent inertness, traditional ‘acid’ testing can only help determine if an item isn’t platinum, however you can’t for example differentiate 900 and 999 platinum.
High-end and specialist precious metal dealers use XRF (X-ray fluorescence) testing to accurately identify the platinum content of jewellery. Inductively coupled plasma, optical emission spectrometry is used by assay offices during the hallmarking process.
Welcome to our simple gold hallmark guide. Since writing this article, we’ve now launched our free-to-use gold hallmark identification wizard, which will help you identify the purity and age of most UK hallmarked gold items.
Hallmarking (also called assay or standard marking) is the official quality control mark that determines the purity of gold and other precious metals.
To receive a price quotation using our scrap gold calculator, you’ll need to know the weight and type of gold you have. Fortunately, modern digital kitchen (or postage) scales are very accurate, allowing most customers to gain a relatively accurate indication of the weight of their gold. Identifying the type of gold can be a little more tricky, which of course requires us to read and decipher the hallmark stamped on the item.
For the purposes of explaining the various marks, we’ll use this ring.
The first mark we see is the makers mark, telling us who manufactured the item (in this instance, H Samuel).
The next mark we see is a Crown or Gold Standard Mark. This was first introduced in 1798 and can now been seen on all UK hallmarked gold that’s 9, 14 18 and 22ct. The crown also appears on old 12 and 15 carat gold, however this was stopped in 1932.
We now come to the mark that tells us the gold fineness (purity). First, let’s look at the shape stamp. You’ll notice it’s a rectangular shape with the corners shaved off. This again tells us the item is gold. An oval stamp would indicate the item is silver, a ‘house’ shaped mark is used for platinum items and three conjoined ovals denote palladium.
The Hallmarking Act 1973 stipulates the use of the above symbols to identify the precious metal. This millesimal stamp number tells us the precious metal content.
It’s worth remembering that other countries have their own hallmarking standards, so the hallmark you see on your gold may well differ. Here is a table of common hallmark fineness stamps:
As our gold ring in the photo was made prior to 1973 (Hallmarking Act), the markings are slightly different, but still easy to understand. In our example, you can see the ’22’ stamp, indicating 22 carat gold.
The next mark tells us which assay office hallmarked the jewellery item. There are 4 assay offices in the UK:
As you can see, this ring was assayed in Birmingham.
The final stamp on our ring is the date stamp which tells us the year this item was tested and certified for fineness. Date identification is outside of the scope of this article, but in this instance, the shape of our letter ‘T’ tells us this ring was hallmarked in 1968.
As you can see, a hallmark can tell us a lot about the item. Providing you can identify the type of gold you have and its weight. you can use our gold calculator to work out the value of your item(s).
If you’d like to delve even deeper into hallmark identification, head on over to our gold hallmark identification wizard.
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