If you are considering buying or you have in your possession gold from a foreign country, it can be difficult to identify its purity, type or authenticity due to many countries not enforcing foreign gold hallmarks whatsoever.
European gold hallmarks, however, are largely and fortunately not hugely different to those used in the UK, due to the existence of the International Convention on hallmarking. The UK joined this convention as a member in 1972, along with many other countries.
Cash4Gold-Now have put together a guide to foreign hallmarks and how to identify specific hallmarks, including European countries as well as India, Egypt, and Russia.
What to look for in European gold hallmarks
The International Convention that the UK and many other countries are members of is recognised by the Common Control Mark applied to all gold items, which identifies that the gold, platinum or silver was produced in a country that’s a member of the convention. Therefore, providing the Common Control Mark is present as part of a hallmark, the metal is recognised as gold in the UK, and vice versa in foreign countries.
There are two types of Common Control Marks to look out for, type one and type two. Type one, the original traditional control mark has varying types of shields surrounding it, depending on the type of precious metal. In addition, the traditional marks also signify the millesimal fineness of the metal, for example, for gold, 585, 750, 916, and so on.
More recently produced precious metals may have the type two Common Control Mark, which is simply a general mark for all types of metal and fineness, with additional marks alongside it that identify the fineness and metal type.
The following foreign countries are part of the International Convention on hallmarking:
- Czech Republic
- The Netherlands
- Slovak Republic
It’s also worth noting that there are some European countries not members of the International Convention whereby the UK still recognises their hallmarks under the British Hallmarking Council.
- Spain (not the whole of Spain, only Andalucia, Valencia, Madrid and Catalonia)
Swiss gold hallmarks
Hallmarking was introduced in Switzerland in 1880, and Swiss gold hallmarks include the fineness of the precious metal along with the Assay Office location. Switzerland precious metals may not always include the Common Control Mark, however, as long as they provide the millesimal fineness mark, an Assay Office mark and a Maker’s Mark, they are still accepted in the UK.
Italian gold hallmarks
Gold and silver from Italy does not require hallmarking. Instead, their independently monitored hallmark system includes only a Maker’s Mark and a fineness mark, with the shape around the fineness digits differing based on whether the fineness is above or below 750.
Maker’s Marks require registered goldsmiths or silversmiths to test the fineness and purity of their own items, making it a far less standardised and regulated system than the gold standard in countries that require metals to be sent off to an Assay Office for thorough testing. Once tested, the Maker’s hallmark the metal with a number for fineness and a two-letter code for the province of Italy.
The lack of regulation and non-existence of an enforced hallmarking system can put people at risk when buying precious metals from these countries as there is less authenticity provided. For precious metals from Italy to be accepted in the UK, they must be retested and hallmarked at a licensed Assay Office either in the UK or another country that is a member of the International Convention.
Foreign gold hallmarks outside of Europe
Indian gold hallmarks
India is another country that doesn’t have an enforced Indian gold hallmark system in place. Instead, it is voluntary to have gold or other precious metals hallmarked and relies on trust. If you are looking to buy or sell gold from India, you should look for a stamp issued by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) seen above. The BIS is the only organisation in India that can hallmark gold, whereby gold must be sent for testing to a specialised Assay and Hallmarking Centre.
Not any jeweller can have gold hallmarked as they must be licensed by the BIS to be able to send their metals for testing. If the precious metal has been tested and marked in India, the Indian gold hallmarks include:
- BIS mark
- Fineness grade
- Assay/Hallmark Centre Mark (their logo)
- Year of Marking (e.g. A for 2000, B for 2002 etc.
- Jeweller’s Identification mark
Egyptian gold hallmarks
Egyptian gold hallmarks are controlled by the Administration of Assays and Weights and the hallmarking of gold, silver and platinum has been compulsory in Egypt since a bill was passed in 1916.
Despite this, the hallmarks in Egypt are slightly different and the system is simplified, showing one of three symbols and not including fineness or an Assay Office mark.
Egyptian gold hallmarks consist of:
- Gold = Seagull (Left)
- Silver = Lotus Flower (Middle)
- Platinum = King Mina’s crown (Right)
Russian gold hallmarks
Russian gold hallmarks have been compulsory since 1700 and must include:
- Makers Mark showing the initials of the goldsmith or silversmith, or their full name.
- Assayer Mark showing the initials of the assayer and the year. This was replaced by the Kokoshnik mark for all gold produced from 1899 which shows the profile of a woman’s head with its standard number and a letter indicating the town.
- Fineness mark which includes two digits indicating fineness.
- Town mark which shows the symbol of the town indicated by the maker, as all goldsmiths had to register the town they worked in.
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