Thursday August 1 2019

The key regulations to consider when buying jewellery in the UK

Natasha Christou

NATASHA CHRISTOU | Outreach and PR Executive

The key regulations to consider when buying jewellery in the UK

Most consumers aren’t well versed when it comes to UK jewellery regulations – for example, did you know that independent certification of a diamond can prove that the stone has been examined and graded by a professional? This lack of knowledge puts shoppers at a disadvantage when shopping for gold, silver, and precious jewels. Whether you’re buying jewellery for yourself or a loved one, it’s always a good idea to get clued-up before making a decision. Here, we’re exploring the key regulations to consider when buying jewellery in the UK.

1.      What is Hallmarking?

According to the Hallmarking Act of 1973, if a jeweller in the UK claims that a piece has gold, silver, platinum or palladium in it, it must be hallmarked.

So, what is a hallmark exactly? A hallmark is a government seal that is stamped on a metal object to display its purity. Only an official UK government assay office can apply a hallmark and there are only four locations in the UK that carry this out. It’s important to note that only official assaying can guarantee standards, and this is something you can ask about when you buy jewellery.

There is also a difference in yellow and white golds. These must be further classified into 9K, 14K, 18K and 22K standards. It’s also essential for silver, platinum and palladium rings to satisfy a certain percentage of purity to meet UK hallmarking standards. It is a legal offence to claim that jewellery is made with a precious metal if it’s not hallmarked in this way, bear this in mind when you’re purchasing from an untrusted source. There are some exemptions from precious metals objects, and these are those that weigh under a certain number of grams:

·         1 gram for gold

·         0.5 gram for platinum & palladium

·         7.78 grams for silver

Therefore, you wouldn’t expect to see a hallmark in jewellery with a metal content lower than the above.

What is diamond certification?

When you purchase a piece of jewellery with a precious gemstone, you’ll receive a diamond certification. Always check that you receive a lab report or certificate to ensure that what you’re buying is legitimate. This certificate will describe important elements of the diamond such as the 4cs - colour, clarity, carat and cut. This is achieved by professionals evaluating and measuring the gem using industry tools such as a loupe or microscope. It’s important to note that only qualified individuals can carry this out.

Retailers will often factor the cost of the certification into the overall price. If you decide you want to buy a diamond but find it is not certified yet, don’t panic. It might be the case that the diamond is newly cut and therefore hasn’t had time to be certified yet. But it is important to be wary in case the seller is concerned that a certification might reveal some defects to the diamond that would make it less attractive.

You may find some jewellers claiming that independent certification is not needed. Perhaps they say that they guarantee that all of their diamonds are high-quality. This is one claim that you shouldn’t trust – always ensure that your diamonds have been third-party certified.

You should also look into which lab the diamond was certified in. Many diamond retailers use WGI (World Gemological Institute), IGL (International Gemological Laboratories), IGR (International Gemological Reports) and GIA (Gemological Institute of America). It’s worth noting that GIA labs are recognized to be the most prestigious and respected independent laboratories in the world and these labs set the standard when it comes to grading. For this reason, you might find that diamonds graded in these labs are sold at a higher price.

What is the metal content?

In the UK, metal content is also regulated. You shouldn’t experience any problems with this, but it’s worth bearing in mind before making a purchase. Lead can cause problems when it is overly present in jewellery. This is why jewellery should not be supplied and lead should not be used in any part of jewellery pieces if the concentration is equal to or greater than 0.05% by weight. This can cause irritation which may lead to a reaction in some individuals.

You should note that the karat of a metal is different to the carat (the unit of weight for diamonds). The karat is used to measure the purity and quality of gold in jewellery. The purest of gold is 24 karat and this figure decreases as it is mixed with other metals, these may be silver or copper for example. The purity of this metal gives it the bright yellow appearance. Although pure, it is not very wearable as pure gold is very soft and can change shape easily if it is not mixed with other metals.

It’s a good idea to read up on UK jewellery regulations before you purchase your next jewellery item, whether it’s a diamond ring, necklace, or earrings. This way, you’ll be assured that you’ve purchased a quality piece that will stand the test of time.

"According to the Hallmarking Act of 1973, if a jeweller in the UK claims that a piece has gold, silver, platinum or palladium in it, it must be hallmarked."

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