War on red tape hits hallmarking

Under threat: Assay Master Ashley Carson shows The Duke of Kent hallmarked jewellery during a visit to the Assay Office.     Picture: Steve Ellis
Under threat: Assay Master Ashley Carson shows The Duke of Kent hallmarked jewellery during a visit to the Assay Office. Picture: Steve Ellis
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A NEW Government threat to laws which guarantee the purity of precious metals and products made from them has been condemned as “bizarre” by Sheffield’s Assay Master, Ashley Carson.

Consumers, retailers and wholesalers have just a week left to make their views known on whether the centuries-old laws on testing and hallmarking precious metals should be scrapped, kept or modified.

The future of hallmarking has been called into doubt as part of the Government’s Red Tape Challenge and has already provoked a storm of comment – the vast majority of it in favour of retaining the regulations.

Around 4,600 people have left comments on the Government website: http://www.redtapechallenge.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/hallmarking/.

That’s twice as many as the next most controversial suggestion – scrapping or relaxing regulations on Sunday trading – and way ahead of the number of responses on other retail regulations.

Mr Carson says the possibility of scrapping hallmarking is being raised in Britain at a time when countries like Italy and India were considering introducing regulations to ensure the purity of jewellery and other precious metal products.

“At one stage the threat to hallmarking came from Europe and was led by Italy,” says Mr Carson.

“Now, Italy is wanting to join the European International Hallmarking Convention and India is wanting to join, too.

“It’s bizarre that we are questioning the future of hallmarking when the two countries that were not involved in hallmarking are wanting to join the party.”

Mr Carson points to the US as an example of what can happen when there is no law to safeguard consumers buying precious metals.

There the autonomy of individual states makes it nigh-on impossible to introduce hallmarking and consumers suffer as a result.

“The Jewellers Vigilance Association carried out test purchases in the US and 60 per cent of everything they purchased failed,” says Mr Carson.

“Ninety per cent of everything that comes to the Sheffield Assay Office is imported. Unless the wholesalers and retailers get it tested, they don’t know what they are buying.

“Hallmarking takes place at no cost to the Government. Everything we have to do is covered and paid for by four Assay Offices from the charges we make for Hallmarking.”

Comments on the future of retail laws must be left on the Red Tape Challenge website before Thursday, May 5.