The history of hallmarking in Britain dates back to 1300, when King Edward 1st established the testing and marking of precious metals. He was concerned that unscrupulous traders were reducing the precious metal content at manufacture, or plating base metals with silver to fool the buyer.
He sent wardens from the London Goldsmiths Company to visit jewellery manufacturers in order to assay (test) silver and gold. “Assay” comes from the French “Assayer” (to try). Only silver which met the required standards was marked with the symbol of a Leopard’s head. This is the same symbol for the London Assay office today.
This practice continued for over 100 years until 1478, when the Wardens of Goldsmiths set up an Assay office and payed an “assayer” to test and mark items which were submitted to them.
Nowadays, the “assayer” checks that the silver is made up of at least 92.5% parts of pure silver. The remaining 7.5% can be any other metal, otherwise known as “alloy”. 92.5% is perfect, because if the piece were made up of 100% pure silver, it would be soft and easily breakable.
In the UK, it is illegal to sell jewellery as “silver” unless it carries a “Sterling” hallmark. The legal weight threshold is 7.8 grams. All of the jewellery at Sterling-Silver of this weight and above is hallmarked at the London Assay Office. To ensure that the lighter items are of the same quality, we buy them from the same suppliers as the heavier items.