Hallmarked silver – a cautionary tale

As you know, I often have commissions, and I’m always open to working with someone’s existing jewellery. It makes for interesting and often challenging work, which I love.

Last year I had a more unusual request, which wasn’t to rework existing, loved jewellery, nor to source a gemstone, but instead, to set a gorgeous stone sent from overseas by one friend to another as a symbol of their friendship.

The brief was to incorporate it into a bracelet that the recipient would design. The recipient also found a chain on Etsy, that she fell in love with, and wished to use that, rather than one I would make or source myself.

Not much difference then, from the regular ‘this was my granny’s can you make it wearable’ request I often get.

Except….The chain that the recipient chose was sold as sterling – my client (following my paranoid instructions) actually double checked by messaging the seller that would be the case, but it turned out to be base metal.

Why is this relevant? Well. firstly the chain was mis-sold. Secondly a base metal chain immediately reduced the options available to me to incorporate the stone setting, meaning I couldn’t risk applying any heat to it, so the fixing had to be cold connections (basically I’d have to rivet or use open jumprings / split rings to attach the gemstone); the seller was deliberately misleading in her descriptions and listing photos then, finally and crucially, when my client contacted her to check the was fully UK hallmarked, the seller lied, confirming it was fully hallmarked

Here’s what you should watch out for:

What’s the description? This seller was careful / sneaky in her listings to describe it as ‘silver’ . Not sterling silver (good, it wasn’t), nor silver plated / coloured metal (which is what it is and how it should have been described) She had attached a tag stamped 925 to the chain

A stamp saying 925 is NOT a guarantee that something is sterling. A genuine hallmark will have a number of elements to it. Here’s an example of the one I’ve had applied to the back of the component – DGD (my makers mark) the lion (traditional mark for sterling silver), 925 (alloy rate) leopard head ( London Assay Office), W ( date year 2021) and finally the common control mark (CCM). Not every hallmark will look like this – the makers mark and assay office will vary as will the year letter and the CCM is really only being added as an optional extra post Brexit. It’s costly and time consuming to send stuff for assay, but, if a piece is over the weight threshold (7.78g if silver, 1g if gold) IT’S THE LAW

This chain was really cheap; at about £30, it retailed for less than I can buy a similar one direct from my bullion dealer, but it was marked as 50% off in the sale – watch out for something that seems too good to be true

And finally, when I flicked through her shop, there was nothing in there saying hallmarked, none of the gold chains, nor any of the silver. Neither was there a copy of the Dealer’s Notice that all UK precious metal sellers have, by law to display. Now, this latter point is something many small jewellers fail to do – partly because it’s hard to get it to display correctly on Etsy, but it’s something you should look out for. There’s no requirement for it to be on every listing, but it should be displayed somewhere in a physical or virtual store.

The consequences of this are that I couldn’t set the stone in the manner my client wanted – we had to compromise her design. The bracelet isn’t going to wear as well as a sterling one would – the plate will rub off over time, and who knows what alloy the metal within is. If it’s being sold incorrectly then it probably has elements that are prohibited in the UK , such as nickel and cadmium. And of course, my client now has to complain to the seller and I’ll need to report her to her local trading standards office.

I was going to have to divide the chain to attach my element, which meant sawing through two of the links. I did so, and also took one of the jump rings outside, put on my fume mask that I use when polishing and heated the jumpring, just to demonstrate how it would behave.

I’m sharing this with you because those of us who do follow the law, are doing so for a number of reasons, and it costs a little more to do so. Please consider this when you are buying jewellery

Pictures showing the client’s chain, with a design element whilst we were trying to design round the limitations, the excess chain and the sawn through links

Now you can see a close up of the cut links and the heated jumpring to demonstrate the difference application of heat has to this base link, compared to the sterling jumpring in the above WiP photo

Finally, this particular batch of jewellery back from the Assay Office. I post in batches, otherwise the cost, including the postage there and back is up to £30+ a piece. You can see the laser hallmarks on the back of the flat pieces – all of which had stones set; 3 were commissions, the others were underweight pieces that I included to bring the unit pricing down and can be found in my online shops

About DawnGillDesigns

Finally able to make stuff and get paid for it!!! How cool is this?!
This entry was posted in geek, Law, Hallmark, processes, silver, Tech Tip, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Hallmarked silver – a cautionary tale

  1. katechiconi says:

    A cautionary tale, and also very interesting. The seller quite clearly knew she was committing fraud, and although the chain was cheap, if she sells enough of them it becomes quite a lucrative little swindle.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. dvberkom says:

    Good stuff to know. It’s so disheartening to find out a member of the trade you belong to is being deceptive. Happens in my line, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. acflory says:

    Excellent post, Dawn. Tweeted so more people can know what to look for.


    • Cheers Andrea. I’ve reported her shop this morning, after she had plenty of time to rectify her listings and because I didn’t make the purchase I’ve sent links to my customer to report herself (or I’ll do it if she is happy to send me a copy of the relevant bits of her invoice) to trading standards.

      Liked by 1 person

      • acflory says:

        Good! If she had made a genuine mistake, she would have rectified it herself. I know I’d be mortified if something like that happened to me. The fact that she chose not to is a clear indication she assumed the problem would just go away and she’d be able to continue fleecing her customers. If everyone called this kind of behaviour out, the world would be a better place than it is now.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Going Batty in Wales says:

    Thank you for posting this Dawn. There are scams and fraudsters everywhere and in jewellery you get what you pay for. I am glad you were able to do something for your client even with the fake chain. I am left wondering why, when you revealed the scam she didn’t buy a similar chain in proper hallmarked sterling silver or ask you to make one. If she was prepared to commission a piece surely she could afford to do it properly!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks and yes, we were expecting ,me to make the bracelet in it’s entirety, including any chain but this was a complex commission with the recipient doing all the designing and her friend from overseas simply paying for it all. The recipient had already fallen in love with the chain once she’d received it. I’ve been careful to ensure that the costly part of the commission (ie the stone set element) will be straight forward to reconnect to something else once the plate wears off this.
      I often work with costume jewellery, reworking / incorporating pieces that have sentimental value, and I’ve treated this in that way.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for posting this – it’s interesting to read the technical details. I’m glad that you have reported the trader and hope that trading standards and etsy take action over her fraud. What a shame your client was so keen on that particular chain… it would have been nice to have your work attached to a good quality chain.

    Liked by 1 person

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