SPOILER ALERT!! This post isn't funny, exciting or sexy, and there are no cute pony pictures, but it is sooooo important that, as a consumer, you know this, so bear with me.... You'll thank me later!
The 1 simple rule to buying good quality jewellery (be it horsehair jewellery, equestrian jewellery or otherwise), is to look for the hallmark. It’s that simple.
But here’s the thing: that 925 stamp on those “sterling silver” earrings you bought? It’s worth about as much as a pile of horse sh!t. And you wouldn’t put that in your ears, now, would you??!!! Seriously, anyone can buy a 925 punch on a well known online auction site for a couple of quid, and stamp any piece of metal with it. IT IS NO GUARANTEE that that metal is sterling silver.
But why does that matter? It matters because much of the cheap crappy jewellery (not to mention the expensive crappy jewellery too) that’s stamped only 925 isn’t actually made of sterling silver, but silver mixed with other nasties such as nickel, cadmium, arsenic and lead. And quite honestly, you don’t want to be putting that sh!t in your ears - or any where else - either.
And I'm not just talking about the odd dodgy hobby maker here. I'm talking about a very large percentage of the mass produced jewellery that's imported here, being knocked out everywhere from the local market, independant shops, and some very big, well known brands.
A genuine hallmark is made up of a series of at least three marks, and can only be applied by a UK assay office. There are 4 in the UK - Birmingham, Sheffield, London and Edinburgh. I'm registered with Birmingham assay office. The hallmark will tell you who made the jewellery (the sponsor mark - mine is MAM), what alloy it's made from, and which assay office tested and hallmarked the jewellery. And that’s the important bit - an assay office tests the metal before they apply the mark, to make sure it is what it’s claimed to be. And if it's not, then it doesn't get marked.
Now legally, sterling silver jewellery weighing under 7.7grams in weight (1 gram for gold) doesn’t have to be hallmarked. So light stud earrings, for example, may not always be marked. On very small items, there sometimes isn't even enough room to mark them. When they're being made by a reputable jeweller, using the proper metal alloys, this is absolutely reasonable and perfectly legal. (Buying them from a reputable jeweller provides more assurance of quality than buying them from the bloke down the market. Please also note that a brand name jeweller is not always the same as a reputable jeweller, but don't get me started on that).
What IS unreasonable, though, is when makers and manufacturers deliberately make jewellery underweight (when I say underweight, I mean flimsy, insubstantial and not actually fit for purpose) to avoid having to hallmark it. Or when they just don't bother hallmarking it. Both offences properly make my p!ss fizz. Can you tell?!!!
So that’s it - look for the hallmark. If it's not hallmarked and there's no good reason for it, don't touch it with a barge pole. It’s that simple.
99% of my jewellery is hallmarked. There is always a genuine reason for not hallmarking the other 1%, it is always absolutely legal, and I will always be upfront with you about it. And if a piece of my jewellery isn't hallmarked, it'll be clearly stated in the description. I am registered with Assay Office Birmingham, my sponsor mark is MAM (Michelle A Mullen), and I am always more than happy for you to verify any information I've given you, independently with them. You can also find a bit more information on hallmarks here.
And here's an example of my hallmark, to give you an idea what you're looking for:
I hope that's helpful. As always, if you have any questions at all, just give me a holler - there's never any hardsell, just honest, genuine advice.
See 'ee drekly