When is a jewellery hallmark important and why?

December 8, 2014

Buying jewellery is a big deal, so making sure you get your money's worth is important. But how can you tell? And why is a jewellery hallmark key to protecting your investment?

When is a jewellery hallmark important and why?

Buying jewellery is an investment not to be taken lightly. It’s easy to spend a huge amount of money for a necklace or pendant, so it’s good to know exactly what you’re getting in return. So what exactly is a hallmark? It’s a stamp that helps you know if what you’re buying is legit. Here’s a bit of background on the subject.

Beware of fakes

Fakes are a lucrative commodity for unscrupulous people who pass them off at market value to unsuspecting buyers.

  • Over the years, counterfeiters have perfected their art to the point where it can be difficult for the average person to distinguish a genuine precious metal from an over-alloyed fake.
  • To avoid getting ripped off, do a bit of research before buying expensive jewellery. What's more, investigate the jeweller's reputation or even better, ask friends for recommendations.
  • An established and honest jeweller will provide a certificate of authenticity for your purchase – and stand by it. After all, it's his or her reputation on the line.

Fortunately, most governments, including ours here in Canada, have established a certification system that allows consumers to recognize legitimate gold, silver or other precious metals.

What does the law say?

In Canada, the Precious Metals Marking Act states that any precious metal jewellery sold within the country should show its level of purity and the official seal of the country in which it was manufactured.

  • For example, a piece of jewellery manufactured in Canada must have a maple leaf symbol surrounded by the letter C.
  • In addition, the minimum purity of an alloy that can be legally recognized as gold is nine karats (pure gold is 24 karats).
  • Furthermore, silver alloys must contain at least 92.5 per cent of that precious metal (hence the famous “925” stamp).

This system ensures that consumers receive no ambiguous or misleading information relating to their purchase.

  • So if you see anything that was supposedly manufactured in Canada, but lacks the maple leaf symbol surrounded by the letter C, you should consider walking away.

The hallmark tradition

Jewellery counterfeiting isn’t new, and neither are buyer-protecting hallmarks. Even in medieval Europe, goldsmiths had to have their creations certified by the authorities as authentic. At that time, the “maker’s mark” was literally a stamp of quality.

  • Nowadays the hallmark is as likely to be engraved in precious metal with a laser as it is with an actual stamping tool – so always look for one. What's more, don't be afraid to ask if you can't see one. It may not be obvious to spot.

Ask questions and trust your instinct

Although there are many other aspects to consider when buying jewellery, understanding what a jewellery hallmark is and being able to ask about the authenticity of your purchase puts you in a better position to ensure you get a quality piece that you'll enjoy for years to come – and which will only increase in value. So when buying jewellery it's a good idea to:

  • Ask a lot of questions. A reputable jeweller won't mind answering your concerns. After all, you worked hard to pay for this potential purchase and it’s your right to have all the pertinent information about it.
  • Ask the jeweller to point out the hallmark if it isn't immediately visible to you.
  • Walk away if you have any doubts, and don't be lured by the promise of a better "deal".
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