In the second of a new series featuring experts from Assay Office Birmingham we look at the potential growth of fine jewellery articles made of a mixture of more than one precious metal, or precious and base metals.
Changes to the hallmarking legislation, which came into force on 6 April 2007, created new opportunities for the jewellery industry and now offer consumers more accurate descriptions of the items they are purchasing.
The amendment to the Hallmarking Act was long overdue and represents a huge opportunity for designers. With precious metal prices soaring, the need to keep fine jewellery affordable and retain its perceived value is crucial if we still want to attract consumers’ disposable income to the jewellery and watch sector. The option of mixing precious metals together, or with base metals, in order to hit a saleable price point, while still offering a hallmarked precious metal item has never been more attractive. Furthermore, it widens the opportunity for design creativity and innovation in new products.
Historically, the Hallmarking Act had prevented the Assay Offices from hallmarking items made of a mixture of precious and base metals, and the regulations for mixed precious metal items were very restricting. This was an extremely unsatisfactory situation for both consumers and the jewellery industry as it sometimes meant a precious metal item could not legally be described accurately because it could not be hallmarked. If a precious metal article over the exemption weight is not hallmarked then it cannot be sold or even described as such.
Significant anomalies arose, particularly with expensive items such as the classic Rolex 18ct gold and stainless steel watch, which had to be described as ‘yellow metal’ and stainless steel.
The 2007 amendments to the Hallmarking Act changed all of that, and consumers and jewellers are now benefiting from the new legislation, which allows accurate descriptions of both upmarket mixed precious metal products and also fashionable lower priced pieces.
Assay Office Birmingham has seen a wide variety of innovative products made from mixed precious metals in the past 12 months. These include beads in silver and 14ct yellow gold; contemporary designer cufflinks in yellow gold and non-precious metals; wedding rings in 22ct gold, copper and silver; lockets in silver and gold; rings in platinum and yellow gold and many, many more. One of the most unusual items has been a silver and copper wand – Harry Potter must be moving upmarket!
It’s really good to see such creative pieces arriving for hallmarking. The Assay Offices fought hard to obtain the changes which allowed the amendment with regard to mixed metals, and it is satisfying to see people exploiting the new potential. The future of our industry relies upon good design, skilful craftsmanship and continual innovation, and the creative pieces we are hallmarking now are definitely meeting these criteria.
When designing mixed metal articles it is important to consider the hallmarking regulations. There is no point mixing platinum with silver if the two cannot be distinguished, because the whole article will then be marked silver. A change to the texture is all it takes to make the hallmark allowable and to increase the perceived value of the piece hugely. We are always happy to discuss designs prior to production to be sure the manufacturer creates a product which we can hallmark, and they can describe accurately, and most importantly sell for the right price. 2010 is going to be a tough year for all of us and we hope to see more and more designers experimenting with new ideas.
Regulations for hallmarking articles of two or more metals
In summary, the regulations are:
Full details of the regulations can be found at www.theassayoffice.co.uk
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