Monthly Archives: February 2010

Bad marks

The hallmark office has been getting in a bit of a lather lately over the fact that traders on certain social auction sites (hmm, I wonder who they’re talking about?) are selling jewellery without proper hallmarks.
Michael Allchin (yes, that is his real name and no, I don’t know what he looks like) is the big cheese at the Birmingham Assay Office (hallmarking office, in other words). Lately he’s been having a go at people who sell jewellery brought in from other countries – where they probably don’t need a hallmark – and selling them via internet auction sites in the UK, where they do need a hallmark to be legally sold as gold, silver or platinum.
“The hallmarking regulations mean that whether you are selling via the internet or mail order, the goods are supposed to be hallmarked,” he says.
So would you know what a hallmark looks like and when a piece of jewellery should have one?
It made me think – most people probably don’t. So here’s a quick lowdown on the rules.
In order to legally sell an item of jewellery as silver – rather than a metal that just looks like silver – those items where the total weight of silver is more than 7.78g must have an official hallmark. (Incase you’re interested, the hallmark-requiring weight for gold is anything over 1g and for platinum, 0.5g.)
You’ll be glad to know that all Rok Chix jewellery where the silver content weighs more (or, in many cases, less) than 7.78g is officially hallmarked. That means it’s been sent to the London hallmarking office and analysed to determine if it is really silver, then marked with a series of hallmarks including the halllmark office’s own mark, a metal and fineness (purity) mark and a sponsor’s mark – that’s the mark of the person or company making and selling the jewellery (in the case of Rok Chix, our sponsor’s mark is RC).
You can find out more about hallmarks if you’re really interested (including what they look like) at the London hallmark office‘s website.
The process of hallmarking isn’t free – well, come on, what were you thinking? So where appropriate – usually in the case of earrings (many of which are difficult to hallmark anyway) and very small items that come well under the 7.78g weight – we try to keep the cost of Rok Chix jewellery down by not hallmarking items that don’t require them for legal purposes. But many of our necklaces, bracelets and rings with a total silver content that weighs less than 7.78g are hallmarked because I know many people like to see a hallmark (well, I do anyway). The problem is, how many of us know the difference between a proper hallmark and, let’s say, a 925 stamp, for instance? (FYI, much of the jewellery that has been imported from places like India and Mexico has a 925 stamp, but in the eyes of the UK law, that stamp is meaningless – besides which, anyone can buy a 925 stamp and use it themselves.)
So why is it important to make sure you buy jewellery that’s been hallmarked? Well, if you want reassurance that you’re getting real silver (or gold, platinum), then it’s the only guarantee – though you can, of course, get precious metals tested, but that can be costly.
Here’s another reason. If you suffer from a nickel allergy, you may want to only wear properly hallmarked silver since some non-hallmarked silver (usually coming from overseas) has a high nickel content. So that might explain why that ring you bought online – you know, the one you thought was a total bargain – has brought you out in a horrible rash (sure it was marked 925, but as I’ve already explained, 925 is essentially meaningless).
Even more seriously, if you’re ever threatened by a werewolf and need to melt your silver down to make silver bullets, make sure you use properly hallmarked silver – or the bullet won’t work, you’ll get a nasty bite and turn into a werewolf yourself and spend all your full moons howling and biting anyone you can get your hands on (okay, blame Benicio del Toro and my mate Joolz for that one).
Well, I just thought you’d like to know…

Passion for purple

Continuing my admittedly ad hoc series on birthstones, here’s the lowdown on the gemstone for February. Amethyst – who doesn’t love it? It’s got to be one of the most popular semi-precious gems…think of those gorgeous purple hues from the lightest of lilacs to deepest, darkest purple that’s just a shade off black. Mmmmm.
So what can I tell you about amethyst?
Well, amethyst is usually a transparent type of quartz – purple quartz, naturally. It’s also found in opaque forms, sometimes tinged with white patches or areas. Most of it comes from Brazil these days, but back in her day Catherine the Great was rather fond of the amethysts found in Russia’s Ural mountains. Some also comes from India, Sri Lanka, Australia, Mexico and even parts of Canada.
 In terms of hardness, amethyst scores a seven (on the Mohs hardness scale, incase you were wondering) – that compares with a perfect 10 score for diamond, the hardest gemstone. So it’s reasonably hard-wearing – again, another reason it’s so popular.
Okay, enough with the educational stuff. The colour purple, as you may already know, is associated with royalty (perhaps because purple dye used to be incredibly rare, with only very rich people being able to afford purple clothing). Well amethyst also has a history of being used in royal jewellery such as crowns – apparently there’s a huge one in the British Crown Jewels.

The Ancient Greeks, bless them, thought amethyst had special powers, including the ability to protect them against getting drunk (word has it that they used to drink alcohol from amethyst goblets, and that used to stop them getting drunk – yeah, right, that’s going to work!). In fact, the name amethyst comes from the Greek ‘amethystos’, which means sober.
So for all you lovely New Agey people out there, amethyst has various properties. It’s thought to help soothe the person wearing it and help balance your emotions (or should that be help you balance when you’ve had too much to drink?). Some crystal therapy devotees also say it has protective powers and that it strengthens love bonds (so give some to your sweetheart).
Want to know what I think? Wearing amethyst makes you feel great in the way that wearing a fabulous shade of lipstick does – well, that’s my take on the matter anyway.

Next month: aquamarine (one of my all-time favourites).