Hallmarking was in the spotlight at the recent Chartered Trading Standards Conference in Birmingham with the presentation of the Touchstone Award. The Award is sponsored by British Hallmarking Council (BHC) and the National Association of Jewellers (NAJ) and encourages Trading Standards officers to implement and maintain hallmarking compliance, enforcement and education activities.
The Touchstone presentation follows the recent launch of the Hallmarking Awareness and Learning Online (HALO) Award at the National Association of Jewellers’ (NAJ’s) AGM. HALO encourages jewellers to educate the consumer about the importance of hallmarks. Together the two awards support each other in maintaining and improving hallmarking enforcement and awareness.
Touchstone has run for over a decade and recognises the most effective initiative relating to hallmarking enforcement or education delivered by a local authority. Previous winners have come from around the UK and featured a variety of different but very relevant approaches. In 2023 the enthusiastic winners are the team from East Riding of Yorkshire Council who were rewarded for a thorough and well-planned enforcement exercise.
Prompted by a number of consumer complaints via Citizens Advice the winning project involved inspections of 42 businesses and 17 online traders. Mirroring some of the findings that initiated the HALO Award, Trading Standards Officers identified several individuals selling on social media or online marketplaces whose goods were not compliant with the Hallmarking Act. Their offences were potentially misleading consumers and also creating unfair competition for the legitimate trade. Trading Standards responded appropriately, recalling stock and ensuring businesses became compliant.
The judges were impressed by the high standard of work being done, reflecting proactive hallmarking initiatives in both enforcement and trade education. Support from Sheffield Assay Office was invaluable in additional training for Trading Standards prior to the exercise starting and also in attending some visits to suspect stores. Non-compliant weighing scales and failure to observe rules surrounding the sale of antique or second-hand goods were common findings alongside identifying hallmarking offences, including simply failing to display the mandatory Dealer’s Notice.
Receiving the prestigious Touchstone Award, Colin Briggs, Trading Standards Manager, East Riding of Yorkshire commented, “This is just the start of a longer term project. We recognise the importance of hallmarking particularly with the expanding online market, high gold prices and unscrupulous people aiming for a quick profit. Regularly revisiting non-compliant jewellers is scheduled on an ongoing basis. Our findings have been logged on the National Trading Standards database to support other authorities and the Award gives us another reason to talk to the public about hallmarking. The close relationship we have built with Sheffield Assay Office will continue to be mutually beneficial long term. We are very proud to win the prestigious Touchstone Award and congratulations go to all the team for this success.”
Presenting the Award Heather Callaway, NAJ Chair said “Hallmarking offers vital protection to our members and to their customers. As the Trade Association for the whole UK jewellery industry it’s imperative we uphold such legal requirements in the interests of consumer confidence and also champion where good practice is evident. We absolutely have to work together with other stakeholders to educate consumers as well as new entrants to the trade. In this instance the winners have implemented an excellent initiative and fully deserve the Award, congratulations.”
Noel Hunter, BHC Chair added his support for the Trading Standards service. “The challenges for the Industry in a digital marketplace are increasing and a major initiative was launched at the Conference to increase online enforcement of hallmarking, working in close partnership with the service over the next six months. More information will be announced shortly.”
As part of the Touchstone assessments process judges also approved a commendation to the BBC for an excellent explanatory piece on hallmarking on the Antiques Roadshow.