In North America, hallmarking practices are different than those in the United Kingdom. Here's what jewelers should be aware of regarding sterling silver jewelry hallmarks in North America:
Voluntary System: Unlike the UK, the U.S. does not have a compulsory hallmarking system. However, there are federal standards regarding the purity of sterling silver and other precious metals.
"Sterling" Stamp: Sterling silver items are often stamped with the word "STERLING" or ".925," signifying that the item is 92.5% pure silver.
Maker's Mark: Jewelers and manufacturers often stamp their unique maker's mark or trademark alongside the metal content stamp. This serves as a form of branding and denotes the item's origin.
Federal Regulations: The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has guidelines in place to prevent deceptive practices. If an item is stamped with a purity mark, it must meet that purity. Any deviation, even if minor, could be seen as deceptive.
Alternative Purity: If the silver is not of sterling grade but is still of a certain purity, it should be stamped accordingly (e.g., ".800" for 80% silver).
Plated Items: Items that are silver-plated cannot be marked as sterling. They might carry marks such as "EP" (Electroplated) or "SP" (Silver Plated).
Voluntary Hallmarking: Similar to the U.S., Canada doesn't have a mandatory hallmarking system. However, there are standards governing the representation of precious metal goods.
"Sterling" Stamp: Canadian jewelers also use the "STERLING" or ".925" stamp to denote sterling silver items.
Consumer Protection: Provincial consumer protection agencies oversee the accurate representation of precious metals. Misrepresentation can lead to penalties.
Maker's Mark: Canadian jewelers and manufacturers also often use a unique trademark or maker's mark on their items, representing the origin and authenticity of the piece.Plated and Lower Purity: Similar guidelines as in the U.S. apply, with plated items clearly marked to differentiate them from solid silver items.
For jewelers in North America:
Other important notes to keep in mind:
It's essential to ensure accurate representation of silver purity. Even though hallmarking isn't mandatory, if a mark is used, it must be truthful.
Building a trusted brand involves not just quality workmanship but also transparent and honest representation of materials.
Familiarize oneself with the FTC guidelines in the U.S. or relevant provincial guidelines in Canada to ensure compliance.
Be clear with customers about the nature and purity of the metal they are purchasing. This transparency can build trust and avoid potential misunderstandings or disputes.