Information regarding the National Gold & Silver Act in the United States
While the law requires that gold and silver carrying a quality mark also carry the registered trademark of the person or organization responsible for the guarantee of quality, there is no United States law requiring that gold or silver be quality marked in the first place. If a quality mark appears, so must the trademark. Whereas a quality mark alone is meaningless, the appearance of a trademark serves to assign the responsibility for fraudulent quality marks.
A quality mark represents the stated standard. The presence of the manufacture’s trademark is an important assurance that the ration of gold to alloy as represented by a stamp on the article is accurate, thus making it conform with the law. On the pragmatic level, such a measure is valuable primarily to distributors and retailers who can hold the manufacturer responsible in case a quality mark is found to be an exaggeration, thereby relieving themselves from responsibility in the chain of distribution. If, however, a quality mark is unaccompanied by a manufacturer’s trademark, it is the distributor and/or retailer who will be held accountable for having passed fraudulently marked goods onto the public.
A trademark is an assurance of quality. It is a permanent record of origin and an assumption of responsibility. It is clearly for the benefit of both distributors and retailers to make certain that each and every gold and silver item purchased is inscribed with a quality mark and is inscribed with a trademark, in accordance with the law.
IMPORTANT: The application of this mark is required to be identical to the means used in applying the quality mark, and must be at least as large as and positioned as close as possible to the quality mark.
Hallmarking (Outside the U.S.)
Hallmarking refers to a legal process that is required in some countries. Hallmarking is a series of official marks made by an assay office to mark items made of precious metals with the fineness of the metal. The maker of a commodity brings the article to the assay office where it is tested for quality and stamped with the appropriate hallmarks. Makers are not allowed to stamp their own work. Several marks are applied by the assay office: a purity mark, an assay office symbol, a maker’s mark and a date stamping that is usually a letter. Look at a piece of old sterling silver from England and you will see sometimes 5 individual stampings. Each one has a meaning, and one of those actually refers to the maker and would be the makers own unique mark, like a logo. Hallmarking is usually associated with English silver, but several countries have similar hallmarking laws.
Hallmarks are often confused with "trademarks" or "maker's marks". A hallmark is not the mark of a manufacturer to distinguish his products from other manufacturers' products: that is the function of trademarks or makers' marks. To be a true hallmark, it must be the guarantee of an independent body or authority that the contents are as marked. Thus, a stamp of '925' by itself is not, strictly speaking, a hallmark, but is rather an unattested fineness mark.