Precious Metals and Hallmarking
The natural, and the science'Precious metals are beautiful natural materials formed over thousands of years, delivered to us by the earth. It’s a phenomenon we all too often take for granted, and it’s a privilege to make beautiful jewellery from it.'
PRECIOUS METALJewellery is rarely made from pure gold or silver. The reason for this is that it is far too soft and would not hold its shape for long and mark very easily. Therefore it is mixed with other metals to make it harder. The mix of precious metal to other metals is referred to as the alloy.
SILVERSilver is a white metal that has the lowest value of all the precious metals. Because of this it is mass produced and widely available at affordable prices. It is also the softest of all the precious metals, which makes it unsuitable for jewellery such as engagement rings and wedding rings as it wears quicker, and doesn’t have the longevity of harder precious metals such as Gold and Platinum.
Most silver jewellery is made from Sterling silver, which is hallmarked 925. This means 925 parts (or 92.5%) silver with the remaining 75 parts (7.5%) made up of Zinc and copper.
GOLDThe ‘fineness’ or purity of gold is indicated by the ‘carat’ (ct) and signifies the percentage of gold to other metals. For example 9ct gold contains less gold that 18ct. If it contains less gold then its value is obviously lower. The lowest carat we use is 18ct.
Gold is naturally yellow in colour and is referred to as yellow gold. White gold and Rose (or Pink) gold colours do not exist naturally and is created by alloying yellow gold with other metals.
Yellow Gold: Yellow Gold is a beautifully rich and lustrous metal. It moves in and out of fashion but is generally the classic choice. Here are the alloys for different carats of gold:
9ct Yellow gold: 37.5% gold / 42.50% silver / 20% copper
18ct yellow gold: 75% gold / 15% silver / 10% copper
22ct yellow gold: 91.7% gold / 8.40% copper
24ct gold (Pure gold): 100% gold
White gold: White gold is a mix of yellow gold with silver or palladium depending on the carat. The yellow gold is what gives white gold a slight tint of yellow. Because of this, white gold is generally rhodium plated to give it a ‘whiter’ or more ‘neutral’ shade to show coloured gemstones and the whiteness of diamonds to their best. It almost resembles Platinum but without the cost, so is often bought as an alternative.
Plating will wear off over time, and it is perfectly normal practice to have your jewellery re-plated when it needs it. See more details below about plating and also our Repair and Refurbish page for details on arranging re-plating of your jewellery.
9ct White gold: 37.5% gold, 62.5% Silver
18ct white gold: 75% gold, 25% palladium or platinum
Rose gold: Rose or Pink gold is a mix of yellow gold, silver and copper. It’s the high percentage of copper that gives the Rose colour. Rose gold is currently very fashionable at the moment. Time will tell whether it will become a classic choice like Yellow gold or White gold.
9ct rose gold: 37.5% gold, 20% silver, 42.5% copper
18ct Rose gold: 75% gold, 9.3% silver, 22.2% copper
PALLADIUMPalladium is a member of the Platinum family, so it’s hard like Platinum but not as dense so it is lighter in weight, and the colour is slightly darker, almost grey. It is sometimes seen as a more affordable alternative to Platinum. Palladium alloys are usually 95% Palladium. It is also hypoallergenic and tarnish resistant.
PLATINUMPlatinum is the hardest and heaviest of all the precious metals we’ve mentioned here. It is a rare metal, which also adds to its desirability and higher valuer. It’s said that, if all the platinum ever mined were poured into an Olympic-sized swimming pool, it would barely cover your ankles! Naturally extremely white, platinum alloys usually contain 95% platinum. It is also hypoallergenic and tarnish resistant.
PLATINGRhodium: Rhodium is a hardwearing rare metal that is from the Platinum family, which means it is ‘whiter’ in colour. The natural colour of white gold has a very slight yellow tint to it. Because of this, white gold is generally Rhodium plated to give it a ‘whiter’ or more ‘neutral’ shade to show coloured gemstones and the whiteness of diamonds to their best.
It is a common miss conception that white gold turns yellow. It doesn’t. When the Rhodium plate wears off, the natural white gold with the slight yellow tint is revealed giving the impression the white gold is turning yellow. It is normal practice to re-plate your White gold jewellery and it’s easy to arrange with us, or any reputable jeweller, every few years or when you feel it needs it. See our Repair and Refurbish page for details.
Gold vermeil: For gold plating to qualify as Vermeil it must be plated on a silver item. The gold must be at least 18ct with a minimum thickness of 3 microns. This means it is hard wearing and lasts longer.
Our gold vermeil is a minimum 22ct gold. This is a lovely rich yellow colour and our Rose gold is a very pink colour. Because of the quality we use, our plating is guaranteed to last! However be aware that not all plating is Vermeil. It may be a lower carat gold and fewer microns that means it will wear off very quickly. It may also be plated over copper or brass, so it’s worth looking for a silver hallmark and asking a few questions.
THE HALLMARK AND WHAT IT MEANSIn the UK it is a legal requirement for an Assay Office (based in London, Birmingham, Sheffield and Edinburgh) to hallmark any jewellery containing precious metals. And it’s our guarantee to you that the precious metals we use are exactly what we say they are. You will find a general overview about hallmarking in our Benchmark Standards.
Amanda Mansell Hallmark
18ct yellow gold
WHAT MAKES UP THE HALLMARKA traditional Hallmark is made up of 5 symbols:
A: The sponsor’s Mark or Makers Mark
B: Traditional fineness mark
C: Millesimal Fineness Mark
D: Assay Office mark
E: Date Letter mark
SPONSORS MARKThis is also known as the Makers Mark. A company or maker will have their own mark that is made up of their initials inside a ‘shield’ shape. No two makers will have the same mark. Every one is unique to them, and therefore will identify who made it. Our hallmark is AJM in an oval shield that we’ve owned since 1995.
Our sponsors mark is AJM in an oval shield
Traditional fineness mark
Five individual symbols
TRADITIONAL FINENESS SYMBOLThere are five symbols that indicate the type of precious metal.
A: Sterling Silver
B: Britannia Silver
MILLESIMAL FINENESS MARKThis mark indicates the fineness of the metal type, which refers to the carat as mentioned above. The shape of the surrounding shield indicates the metal type and the numerical format shows the precious metal content of the article, expressed in parts per thousand.
For example the Gold fineness - 375 is 9 carat, 585 is 14 carat, 750 is 18 carat and 916 is 22 carat. With regards to Silver fineness - 925 is Sterling and 958 is Britannia Silver.
The four symbols below are:
C: Gold (18ct)
D: Silver (Sterling)
ASSAY OFFICE MARKThis mark tells you which Assay Office tested and hallmarked the article.
The historic Leopard’s Head of London, and the mark of the Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office, is internationally recognised as the stamp of approval and guaranteed quality. Our work has been hallmarked in London since 1997, and prior to that in Birmingham.
Millesimal fineness mark
A symbol of purity
Assay office marks
A mark of guaranteed quality
DATE LETTERThe date letter runs through the alphabet and changes annually on January 1st. Once Z is reached the font, case, and shield shape change so each mark is specific to a year.
A symbol of the year marked