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Hallmarks of Precious Metals

 

Hallmarks (“poinçons de garantie”) are certifications issued by the French state of the precious-metal content of a piece.

Applied to a piece (sculpture, jewel…), it provides the purchaser with the assurance that its precious-metal contents (gold, silver, or platinum), as indicated by the manufacturer, is exact.

No gold, silver or platinum work may be sold within France without the government’s official hallmarks.

The hallmark is a guarantee for both the purchaser and the seller.

French hallmarks are a guarantee should the piece be resold, because one can not know, without help, whether for example the piece contains pure gold (24 karats), solid gold (22 karats)…

Works marketed in France, even if manufactured abroad, must comply with legal fineness classifications, as certified by the hallmarks:Hallmarks table

    • gold: 999, 916, 750, 585 and 375 thousandths,
    • silver: 999, 925 and 800 thousandths,
    • platinum: 999, 950, 900 and 850 thousandths.

The value of the artist’s work exceeds that of the precious metal it contains.

 

FRENCH HALLMARKS

France uses seven series of hallmarks

1-      “Precious Metals, 999‰ fineness” hallmarks:

It is rare to find works made of 999-thousandth fine precious metals. Precious metals are far too “soft” to hold works without being distorted. That is why the precious metal is associated with another metal, to obtain the suitable degree of rigidity.

 

Only the Paris Bureau de Garantie (assay office) is authorized to apply these hallmarks.

  • Pure Gold Hallmark, .999 fineness (24 karats)
  • Pure Silver Hallmark, .999 fineness
  • Pure Platinum Hallmark, .999 fineness

2-      Hallmarks for new works:

Here, there is a distinction between:

Grande Garantie” Hallmarks (known as Poinçons de Titre)

Gold Hallmark, First Standard, 916 thousandths (22 Karats)

Gold Hallmark, Third Standard, 750 thousandths (18 Karats)

 

Silver Hallmark, First Standard, 925 thousandths

Silver Hallmark, Second Standard, 800 thousandths

 

Platine Hallmark, First Standard, 950 thousandths

Platine Hallmark, Second Standard, 900 thousandths

Platine Hallmark, Third Standard, 850 thousandths

 

“Petite Garantie” Hallmarks

Gold “Petite Garantie” Hallmark, 750 thousandths

Silver “Petite Garantie” Hallmark, 800 thousandths

Plaatinum “Petite Garantie” Hallmark, 850 thousandths

3-      Hallmarks for second-hand works imported to France, or where the origin is not clearly defined.

4-      Hallmarks for works in precious alloys (applicable only to gold).

5-      Hallmarks for works made partly of gold and partly of silver (Vermeil, i.e. gold-covered silver, represents a different case altogether).

6-      For works made partly out of gold or silver and partly out of base metals.

7-      Low-fineness hallmarks, usually sold through auctioneers or through Municipal Savings Banks.


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