My Blog

SEPT/OCTOBER BLOG 2021

Here I am back from my summer break, having enjoyed a staycation cruise and an extended visit from my son. Of  course the weather has been somewhat mixed over the season but I suppose we can expect nothing more far as British Summers are concerned.

 

I’m all set to resume my jewellery making and at the time of writing this blog, have been concentrating on pieces made from gold vermeil, a technique that was founded in France in the 18th century.  It is a type of high-quality plating where sterling silver is coated in a layer of gold often between 14 and 22 carat and which must be no less than 2.5 microns in thickness.  Unlike cheaper options where a thin gold layer is plated onto a base metal, usually brass, items manufactured from gold vermeil can be hallmarked but only as 925 sterling silver, at least in the UK, provided the required thickness of gold has been achieved.  Surprisingly some well-known crown jewels have elements of gold vermeil as part of their construction, and it is used frequently in contemporary jewellery as it is cheaper than gold but looks just as good.  Does gold vermeil tarnish? Well, the items will dull over time but can be buffed up with a gold polishing cloth and should be treated with respect as with all items of jewellery. As gold vermeil cannot be soldered, it throws up challenging ways to connect and link pieces of the metal together – great fun!

 

As I’ve mentioned hallmarking gold vermeil, I thought I’d also provide some information on the very subject of hall marks which I’ve touched on in the past in previous blogs.  Any jewellery made in precious metals in the UK will require hallmarking under the 1973 Hallmarking Act if their weight exceeds the exemption level.  For sterling silver this is 7.78g, for gold it is 1g, for platinum and palladium it is 0.5g. There used to be more assay offices in the UK, but they have now been reduced to four – London, Edinburgh, Sheffield, and Birmingham each with their own symbol that can be seen in the hallmark itself.  London is represented by a lion, Edinburgh by a castle, Sheffield by a rose and Birmingham, an anchor.  A hallmark comprises of the sponsor’s mark (in my case my initials GVL), the assay office mark, the metal identification (925 for silver, 375 gold etc) and the year of hallmarking. This year, 2021 is represented by a W.  If a jeweller has added a base metal to the piece such as copper, then an additional mark appears near the hallmark indicating a plus sign (+) and the word metal.

 

Let’s move on to the history of hallmarking.  The statute of hallmarking first comes to light in 1238 although unlike today and the Hallmarking Act, there were no controls over workers in precious metals nor were there any official marks as such.  What we know as sponsor marks were used by some of those working with precious metals although at the end of the 13th century a sort of marking system was introduced, partly to stop the export of silver from England.  The first mark was a leopard’s head and struck on silver coins, the standard currency for the time. Both gold and silver received the same mark throughout the country and not just in London.  However, the leopard’s head could be easily forged was being struck on substandard materials by unscrupulous goldsmiths, so a statute was passed in 1363 which meant that every goldsmith had to have a mark of his own to identify his work.  This system remained in place until 1478 when a further mark was added which we know today as the date letter again introduced because of shameless practices by those who tested and marked the metals. All testers and markers had to work out of Goldsmiths Hall and all goldsmiths had to take their wares to the Hall to have it marked; hence hallmarking.  The leopard was also given a crown.  There were various other changes to the established marking system which resulted in the Britannia Silver to protect the coinage from being melted down; the standard for silver was raised from 92.5% to 95.84% as the minimum silver content but the silver coinage standard remained at 92.5%.  Gold marking was introduced with the arrival of the 18-carat gold standard in 1798.  Bringing this history up to date, the Hallmarking Act 1973 introduced platinum into the hallmarking fold with a mark of an orb and cross inside a pentagon.

 

If you buy any jewellery in the UK that purports to be constructed of any precious metal, please check for its hallmark. You may need a magnifier to see it properly.  Not all countries have the same stringent regulatory requirements that we have here in the UK so if you want to buy a piece of jewellery elsewhere, buy from a reputable jeweller.

 

Now that I’ve braved my first recording of a blog, (if you want to listen to the blog see below) I thought it might be fun to go back and record some of my earlier blogs. I won’t be recording them all verbatim but mainly focusing on the different topics that have been covered in each. You’ll still be able to read both past and future blogs on my website but I’ll add a link to the blog cast and also on my Victoria Jewellery Facebook  and Instagram Pages.

 

 

So, I’m going to sign off and get myself a cup of tea.  I’ll be back end of October, early December with another blog.  Meantime take care

 

Gill

4/10/21


https://gillianlyon.podbean.com/e/october2021-blog/