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A hallmark is used as an indication of the metal content in precious metal jewellery and is usually stamped into the piece.

A hallmark should (see fake hallmarks below) guarantee the purity of the metal as determined by assaying (testing) the metal by one of several methods.

Some of these assay methods are destructive but highly accurate (to 1 part in 10,000) and used to test random samples from a manufacturer for compliance. Other methods are completely non-destructive but with a corresponding loss of accuracy (around 2 to 5 parts per 1000) and these would be used during a jewellery valuation to test a piece assumed to be of value.

Gold Hallmarks
.999 99.9% gold 24 carat
.916 91.6% gold 22 carat
.750 75% gold 18 carat
.583 58.3% gold 14 carat
.417 41.7% gold 10 carat
.375 37.5% gold 9 carat

Silver Hallmarks
999 99.9% silver Fine Silver
925 92.5% silver Sterling Silver
900 90% silver Coin Silver

Fake Hallmarks

fake hallmarksRecently a large amount of fake jewellery has been found for sale on Ebay. The items are typically manufactured in China and are stamped with "925", the mark for sterling silver.

They are clearly NOT sterling silver as is evident by the prices. There is a world price for silver and these items are being sold for less per gram, than refined silver can be bought. As shown below a 35 gram bangle for $12 (about 1/3 the cost of silver bullion)

As with all purchases, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!

One of the manufacturers falsely labeling their products was quoted as saying, "We do it because it makes it look better for the customer." Seriously? The customer is being ripped off and not getting what they believed they had paid for.

Falsifying hallmarks damages genuine jewellery businesses who rely on the hallmarking as an assurance of quality. China in particular needs to be brought to task with a ban on all imports until this practice is stopped. Until then, it's still buyer beware for those purchasing goods sourced from unregulated countries.

Here is a link to a range of websites advertising replica Tiffany jewellery, complete with the characteristic green bags and Tiffany logos: Tiffany Fakes

Here is an item found today (9/11/2012) on advertised as:
Classic 925 STERLING SILVER Round 65mm charm Bangle NEW - $11.99 (free postage) LINK HERE

fake silver bangle
Condition:100% brand new, never be worn.
Size Calculation:1mm=0.039inch
Item Number#--
925 silver(925 stamp)
Quantity:1 pcs
Bangle size:6.5cmX1.0cm
Total Weight:35g
Nickel free, not allergic,not easy to tarnish

It is simply not possible to sell a genuine sterling silver bangle including a pouch and postage and handling from Hong Kong at one third of the cost of the raw materials. (35 grams for $12)

All our chains are hallmarked either 375 (for 9ct gold) or 925 (sterling silver) On the thicker chains you will find this on the clasp of the necklace or bracelet. On the finer chains you will find this on a tag that joins the clasp to the chain.

Some of our charms are NOT hallmarked, but they are absolutely guaranteed to be either 375 gold or 925 sterling silver. This is because both the silver and gold charms are sometimes made in the same mould and then hand finished. (You couldn’t have both hallmarks in the one mould, so there are none.)

Please visit Silver Marks, Hallmarks and Maker’s Marks for much more detailed information that covers antique and vintage silverware and silver plate.

Various assaying techniques are described in detail on this wikipedia page.