95% of the items currently on sale in the UK that have a British Hallmark WERE ACTUALLY MADE IN ASIA.
A sorry fact but its unfortunately true.
However its not all bad news.
When you buy one of our hallmarked silver products that has our own "Made in Britain" Tudor Rose emblem displayed on the picture rest assured you will be buying an authentic British made quality product that will also have a full UK hallmark including the optional lion and date letter as shown below.
Why doesnt this apply to all hallmarked silver products for sale in the UK?
Although this was once the case this is no longer true. The item in question could have been made anywhere in the world and then imported into the UK and hallmarked at a UK assay office. Under current hallmarking legislation there is nothing to distinguish an imported product from one that has been made in the UK by a British manufacturer. Furthermore the UK Jewellery Industry that is now predominated by importers is one of the few industries that does not display a country of origin on its imported products.
You must be joking!
We are sorry, but we are not. The British hallmarking system has been hijacked and is getting worse. As a British manufacturer we are appalled at the way the British hallmark has been abused, manipulated and devalued over the last 30 years by importers, and more surprisingly some or all of the UK Assay offices in conjunction with the British Hallmarking Council the very organisations in whom we place our trust to oversee, uphold and protect the hallmarking system.
We as a British silver manufacturer feel that the public have been and are still being misled about the current hallmarking situation and we consider the devaluing of the British hallmark to be a major problem not just for UK manufacturers but more importantly for you the consumer. Many of you have been duped into believing that an item is made in Britain because it has a British hallmark. If you show an item with a British hallmark to 10 people chosen at random 9 out of 10 of them will assume that the item has been made in Britain because of the British hallmark.
SO! What has happened?
The problem originated in the 1980's when the volume of cheap imports entering the UK from Asia and South America started to increase.
Prior to 1999 if an article was imported into the UK and submitted for hallmarking it was required to have an import mark struck on it that was different to the normal mark used on products made in the UK. Originally this was just a simple "F" which stood for "FOREIGN" but since 1904 each assay office was given its own import mark and an example of one from Birmingham assay office is shown below. Instead of the normal ANCHOR mark a triangle in an oval surround was used.
This "IMPORT" mark allowed the public to distinguish between items that had been made in the UK from those that had been imported and to thereby make an informed choice about which product they wished to purchase. They could choose between buying a British made product that was completely traceable or one that had been made in a third world country possibly in a back street sweat shop with appalling working conditions and little or no regard for any health and safety rules.
During the late 1980’s and 1990's huge quantities of imported items started to appear for sale on our high streets but many of these items were not displaying an import mark as required by UK law. Instead they were displaying a full British hallmark and a large percentage of these items were also re-exported to countries such as the USA now wearing the "Made in Britain Hallmark."
Importers wanted to take advantage of the “kudos” of the English hallmark. The UK hallmark makes an item far more desirable and merchantable so instead of declaring their items as IMPORTED when they were submitted for hallmarking as required by the then UK law the importers were falsely declaring the items as "MADE IN THE UK." An illustration of what a full UK hallmark would have looked like prior to 1999 is shown below. It would have had four symbols that would have been
1. THE MAKERS or SPONSORS MARK
2. THE ASSAY OFFICE MARK in this case the anchor for Birmingham.
3. THE RAMPANT LION that denotes Sterling silver which is 92.5% pure silver.
4. A DATE LETTER that tells us the year that the item was hallmarked
The imported items now sporting a full UK hallmark were also being described by wholesalers as “Made in Britain” and during the years prior to 1999 Birmingham assay office which is the office that we have always used for our own hallmarking requirements were allowing importers to declare these imported items as “MADE IN THE UK” and hallmarked the items with full UK hallmarks.
We complained to Birmingham Assay office as did other UK manufacturers about this flagrant abuse of the hallmarking system for several years but nothing was done to stop it. The practise much to the annoyance of the UK manufacturers that had complained was allowed to continue unchecked for a number of years. We have never been certain why this breach of the hallmarking legislation was allowed but eventually the Birmingham Assay office stated that the matter was on the agenda for discussion at a meeting of The British Hallmarking Council.
THE BRITISH HALLMARKING COUNCIL IS A SEMI AUTONOMOUS BODY OVERSEEN BY THE GOVERNMENT BUT FUNDED BY THE FOUR UK ASSAY OFFICES THEMSELVES SO THEY CAN HARDLY BE SEEN AS IMPARTIAL NOR INDEPENDANT?
The British Hallmarking council meeting took place and afterwards we were informed by Birmingham assay office that a guideline ruling had been made which read something like this.
"IF AN ITEM IS WIPED WITH A CLOTH AFTER IT HAS BEEN HALLMARKED THEN AS FAR AS THE HALLMARKING COUNCIL IS CONCERNED THE ITEM CAN BE DESCRIBED AS MADE IN BRITAIN."
This statement became a forerunner to the British Hallmarking Councils intention, (Which was under the ministerial control of the department of Weights and Measures at the time) to seemingly do everything possible to help importers with little or no regard for UK manufacturers. The knock on effect within our industry has cost many hundreds if not thousands of manufacturing jobs in the UK.
The import mark was eventually discontinued in 1999 at the behest of importers. Prior to this the famous “makers mark” had already been replaced by a "SPONSORS" mark.
A "sponsor" is usually an importer or wholesaler that does not manufacture but just buys and sells. At the end of 1999 the hallmark was revamped and the date letter became a non-compulsory mark, as did the famous Rampant lion which had been the British symbol that denoted sterling silver for nearly 500 years. Below are two pictures showing the layout of an old style hallmark pre 1999 and the new style statutory hallmark for Sterling Silver that replaced it.
The old style pre 1999 Sterling silver hallmark with the rampant lion and date letter.
The new style statutory hallmark with just three symbols. The date letter and rampant lion becoming optional marks that have to be requested.
Can the current hallmarking system get any worse?
Unfortunately yes it can.
Further legislation was changed in 2013 to allow UK assay offices to mark away from the main assay office and this legislation also included the right to mark offshore. I.E. Overseas.
This legislation stated quite clearly when discussed in Parliament that the marks used,
"WILL BE CLEARLY DISTINGUISHABLE FROM THE EXISTING DOMESTICALLY STRUCK MARKS."
It was left to The British Hallmarking Council to oversee the new rules and to,
"MAKE CLEAR THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE TWO SETS OF MARKS."
Sheffield assay office subsequently opened a hallmarking facility in Milan and used the Sheffield town mark of a rose on items marked in Italy. The Birmingham assay office which had already opened several “pop up” sub assay offices within their larger import customers own premises then announced that they are opening an assay office in Mumbai, India in July 2016 to enable importers to have their work marked at point of manufacture.---- AND STILL USE THE FAMOUS BIRMINGHAM ANCHOR HALLMARK ON ITEMS MARKED THERE. Amazingly a Birmingham assay office spokewoman pompously announced on TV in march 2016 that the famous anchor mark that has a near 250 year history with the City has apparently got nothing to do with Birmingham and "IS NOT A MARK OF ORIGIN"? Furthermore the British hallmarking council instead of overseeing the changes stated that.
"There is no statutory requirement to use a separate and distinct assay office mark for the purposes of overseas hallmarking"
Apparently when the new legislation was drafted into the final paper it was not worded correctly and some of the UK assay offices have seized upon this opportunity to help line their own pockets.
Yes that's right.
Birmingham assay office are opening an assay office in Mumbai India and an item made in Asia will be hallmarked in Mumbai, India in exactly the same way as if it had been hallmarked in Birmingham, UK. AND YOU THE CONSUMER WILL NOT KNOW THE DIFFERENCE. This is in total contradiction to the legislation that was discussed in Parliament that stated quite clearly that offshore hallmarks should be clearly distinguishable?
Our promise to you is this.
We manufacture approximately 70% of the items for sale on this website in our own factory and they proudly display our own "AJP" makers mark and we always include the optional date letter and the British Lion denoting Sterling Silver on all our UK made products
Approximately 25% of the products that are for sale on our website are chosen from other UK manufacturers that we know and trust and these products proudly display their own makers marks.
Sadly we sell a few imported products on this website because we can no longer obtain them in the UK. The law requires that these products have a basic UK hallmark so we adhere to this. What we have never done and would never do is describe these items as being MADE IN BRITAIN just because they have a British hallmark.
All the products on our website that have been Made in Britain will display our own Tudor Rose "MADE IN BRITAIN" logo on the picture. If a product does not display the Tudor rose logo then it will be of very good quality or we wouldnt consider selling it but it will not have been made in the UK.
At present we are part of a group of Birmingham manufacturers that have made complaints to both the British hallmarking council and the Birmingham assay office in a bid to stop them using the famous anchor hallmark on items marked in Mumbai and the dispute is still ongoing.
Your feedback and opinions are extremely valuable to us and we would like you to share your views on what is left of the British hallmarking system so please feel free to drop us an email. If you are thinking of buying a hallmarked item and are not sure its origin or you suspect that someone is trying to pass off an item as being British made when it is not we will impartially offer our advice if asked to do so. Always ask the shop that you are about to make a purchase from where the item you are thinking of buying was made. ASK THE SHOP FOR THE COUNTRY OF ORIGIN. And remember if you are buying something from a larger high street jewellers chain of shops the item you are about to buy was 95% certainly made in Asia. After July 2016 if the item has an anchor as part of the hallmark it was more than likely hallmarked in Mumbai, India by the Birmingham Assay office that despite its 250 year history with the City has apparently,---
"GOT NOTHING TO DO WITH BIRMINGHAM"?