Putting our Hallmarks where our mouths are

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!!

 

 

7 thoughts on “Putting our Hallmarks where our mouths are

  1. Actually, in the US it is illegal to hallmark your work unless you also have a trademark (aka Maker’s Mark) along side it. The idea is that if you mark your work, there needs to be some way to track you down if you aren’t accurate about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I hallmark with a hand inscribed signature, date, and metal value. My mom owned an antique shop for 30 years and talked to me about the importance of hallmarking. Simply stated when a piece is signed and hallmarked it is of more value. It means someone put their creative talents together and made something of importance. I know many people don’t think about this, but we are ALL pioneers. There is not only a value today for what we do, but a value tomorrow. Some day we won’t be here anymore, but our jewelry will. It will pass on to our children, be sold in an estate sale, or be in an antique shop or flea market and it will represent the work we did. It will continue to hold value, and it will tell the history of a great art medium, and the talented people who laid the ground work.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Remember that under US Law you can only use a hallmark if you also include a “manufacturers mark” which can be as simple as your name. It’s illegal to add a hallmark without identifying the company or person responsible for issuing that hallmark. Really sorry to have missed getting to Metalwerx this year. Hope you come back again!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I do stamp .999 or .925 where it is practical. Or I will vibrograve someplace where it won’t disturb the design. I need to have a stamp made with my business name though.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As a U.K. artist my pieces are always hallmarked. Moreover, I incorporate the hallmark and my signature stamp as part of the overall design, and encourage my students to do the same. This practice not only complies with existing regulations, but also signals the professionalism of my work.

    Like

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