Hallmarks guarantee quality Dec03
Members of the European Parliament have succeeded in shelving plans to
harmonise the hallmarking of precious metals across Europe. The quality of
our gold, silver and platinum in jewellery shops across West Suffolk could
have been under threat if the proposed EU Directive had gone through.
gold and silver are soft metals which wear away and lose their shape if
made into jewellery without additives. Therefore, manufacturers alloy them
with copper or other cheaper metals in order to harden them. This
necessary adulteration of precious metals with cheaper ones provides the
dishonest with an opportunity for easy fraud. Because of these wide
possibilities for deception, the need for standards for precious metals,
reinforced by a system of compulsory hallmarking, has long since been
more than 700 years, the British hallmarking system has proved to be of
great value in guaranteeing quality of precious metals, like gold and
silver, offering a control standard for the manufacturer, retailer and
British hallmark authenticates the quality of the precious metal
purchased, based on an independent assay or analysis. The manufacturer
values the hallmark system as it protects him from unfair competition from
dishonest competitors who will pass off substandard products at a fraction
of the price. Clearly, the hallmark minimises the risk of prosecution for
the retailer and deception for the buyer.
UK has been a signatory to the International Convention on Hallmarking
since 1972, allowing the UK Assay Offices to strike the Convention
Hallmark recognised by member countries e.g. Austria, Denmark, Finland,
Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland.
some European countries such as Italy, France, and Germany, do not have an
independently verifiable system of hallmarking that allows their
manufacturers to offer similar guarantees to their jewellery retailers and
buyers. Italy is Europe's largest jewellery manufacturing nation and its
lack of compulsory requirement for hallmarking has contributed to an EU-wide
problem of under-carating and fraudulent products.
this, the Italians, who currently hold the EU presidency, insisted on
scrapping the independent assay and hallmarking on the grounds that a non-harmonised
system in Europe distorts the market. This would have introduced an
inferior system of hallmarking, thereby forcing the UK to relax and even
abandon its own system. This would have been unacceptable.
a direct result of intense lobbying from Conservative MEPs, nine EU member
governments, including the UK, now oppose the proposal. In May there were
only four. Earlier this week a top level committee of EU diplomats
therefore decided that no further progress can be made with this directive
and withdrew it from the agenda of a forthcoming Ministerial where the
proposal was tabled for adoption.
Italian-driven EU Directive on Precious Metals is a dangerous threat to
consumers and the whole industry. It would allow manufacturers and
importers in Europe to self-certify their jewellery and put it on the
market anywhere in Europe, including the UK, without going through an
independent third-party Assay Office. It would be impossible to trace the
origin and reliability of any set of marks and it would deprive the buyer
of any independent guarantee of quality and so diminish his confidence in
the value of all jewellery! I will be working to ensure this proposal is
permanently withdrawn from the negotiating table once and for all.