British silversmiths struggling to sell in EU after Brexit deal failed to recognise UK's hallmarks

·2-min read
Contemporary Silver at the London Silver Vaults in Chancery Lane - Julian Simmonds 
Contemporary Silver at the London Silver Vaults in Chancery Lane - Julian Simmonds

British silversmiths are being frustrated over trying to sell silver and gold into the European Union after the Brexit trade deal failed to recognise the UK’s centuries-old hallmarks.

The UK has one of the most rigorous systems of quality validation in the world, requiring a Maker’s mark, year, and an Assay Office mark on every item.

However, hallmarking was overlooked in the Brexit trade deal which has meant that UK silversmiths are finding it difficult to export British silver and gold into the EU. The problems also affect jewellry.

This is despite British silversmiths still adhering to the identical international ISO and BSO standards that the EU recognised until the end of December last year.

Sir John Hayes, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Craft, called for the 1973 Hallmarking Act to be amended to protect UK producers.

He said it was “preposterous” that UK hallmarks should not be recognised by the European Union.

He said: “We need to challenge the basis for EU non-recognition of British marks – one of the highest quality British standards in the world.

“This is a centuries-old tradition. There is no concession required from the EU. It can only be an oversight or awkwardness. This is an important industry for Britain.”

The hallmark allows each piece of silver to be traceable back to a single workbench, in the same way that meat can be traced back to a particular herd on a farm.

The current legal operating standard for “Sterling” silver has not changed since 1275 and hallmarking has been required by law in this country since 1320.

UK goods can be recognised if makers pay for an additional “Convention Mark”, or “Common Control Mark” which was first set out in the 1972 Vienna Hallmarking Convention.

However, only 16 EU countries are signatories, and major UK markets including France, Spain, Belgium and Italy are not covered.

The Government said the problems did not affect any silver or gold on the market before Jan 1 this year. Any new stock entering the GB market will require a UK hallmark or Common Control Mark while any new stock exported to EU members will require a mark recognised by those countries.

A spokesperson said: “While the UK secured a number of sector-specific annexes as part of the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) offer, it was not possible to reach agreement with the EU on the UK’s proposal for a Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) on conformity assessment. The UK Government’s focus is on implementing the deal helping prepare businesses for upcoming opportunities."