I just returned from Metalwerx Marketplace in Woburn, Massachussetts, where Art Clay World was a vendor and I demonstrated Art Clay for 2.5 days. Lots of interest, lots of metalsmiths who know about metal clay, people who were taking metals classes at Metalwerx school but didn’t know about metal clay. So, a lot of educating, firing and urging classes with Michaela Verani, the resident metal clay instructor.
During down time, I wandered around the room and spoke with other vendors about what they did and that’s when I met Aimee Berrent, Appraiser and jewelry consultant for her company, “A Matter of Brilliance.” We spoke about our respective roads to becoming GIA Graduate Gemologists. Of course, that brought me to metal clay and I removed a recent ring from my finger and held it out for her inspection.
Immediately she looked inside the shank. I mean REALLY looked inside, but not for seams or pits.
“Where is your hallmark?” she asked, her voice a challenge of sorts. “You say you want metal clay validated but here you are with the best example of validation and you don’t have a single mark on your piece.”
I felt admonished and abashed. I never remembered to hallmark my pieces, and rarely even remembered to sign them.
She was absolutely right. I wondered how many of us who use silver and gold metal clay hallmarked their pieces, or even signed them. Those very well known to us, Anna Mazon, Wanaree Tanner and Barbara Becker-Simon did, but how many others? It doesn’t take much to purchase a .999FS stamp (Art Clay sells two of them). It’s a little more vague o n what to do for the new mixed metals. Whether it’s .960 or .950 sterling, you don’t want people to think it’s .925. But we will have to come up with a solution very soon, because hallmarking is incredibly important.
I think we are lackadaisical about hallmarking because we don’t have the kind of strict law and enforcement that the UK has, where precious metal jewelry must be hallmarked for fineness if the silver content is over 80.0. I know that base metals only need to be marked “metal” to distinguish them from precious metals.
But it’s time to put our hallmarks where our mouths are. Every silver piece we do should have either a .999FS or STERLING or .950 (or .960) Sterling mark on it. That’s the kind of validation each one of us is capable of doing as artists. It’s an easy first step that should become a regular part of our creative process.
I’d love to hear from those that already hallmark, those that don’t and why they don’t. Hopefully, this blog will open us to the importance of this process. Thanks to Aimee Berrent for setting me straight and helping to get my own house in order!!