A third of “gold” jewellery sold online in the UK is suspected as fake, warns the British Hallmarking Council

A third of ‘gold’ jewellery being sold online is suspected to be unhallmarked and therefore may be fake, raising concerns that UK consumers are being duped by internet traders, according to data released from the British Hallmarking Council (the UK’s hallmarking body) and the Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office.

A 10-day internet sweep by WRi Group in partnership with Incopro, on behalf of the British Hallmarking Council and Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office, revealed that 36% (6,377 from a total of 17,657) of “gold” jewellery listings on sites such as Amazon and Preloved had not been advertised as hallmarked. Of those listings 24% (4,278) of all items were suspected as fake and therefore being sold illegally. eBay sellers alone accounted for over half (56%) of all suspect items of “gold” jewellery being sold online, where there was no mention of a hallmark, between 21 March and 1 April 2019.

It is illegal to sell anything in the UK made from a precious metal (silver, gold, platinum and palladium) over a certain weight without a hallmark – a stamp of quality that protects the consumer by confirming that what they are buying is made from real precious metal. The research suggests around 150,000 items of fake “gold” jewellery could be listed for sale in the UK each year, through online marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon. 

Noel Hunter, Chairman of the British Hallmarking Council, says: “The UK Hallmarking Act (1973) was put in place to protect consumers and retail jewellers from counterfeits, but the application of the legislation to online trading activity remains untested. And we have seen little appetite from the internet giants to step up enforcement or adequately protect consumers.

“Our internet sweep highlights just a fraction of the infringements made by online sellers of ‘precious metal jewellery’ in the UK today. A duty of enforcement currently rests with local Trading Standards departments, who have suffered a 50% cut in their resources over the last five years. Adequate powers are necessary to deal with internet trade.” 

Robert Organ, Deputy Warden for the Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office, agrees: “We are joining the British Hallmarking Council in calling on the Government to work with us and the other Assay Offices in the UK, to develop a robust enforcement strategy that protects consumers and businesses from internet based, unfair trading practices. This must include a review of the current Hallmarking Act to see if it could be extended to cover internet trade. 

We are also asking the Government to work with Amazon and eBay to increase hallmarking information on precious metal jewellery listings, raising consumer and seller awareness about hallmarking and the law.”

Consumers are advised to always check for a hallmark, “It’s your guarantee,” says Organ. He says consumers should always ask an online seller, before they buy, if an item has been hallmarked. Anyone who believes they have been sold fake precious metal items should speak to Citizens Advice, who can provide general information on hallmarking or give advice to help resolve a dispute.

About the research 

The online insight report was conducted by WRi Group in partnership Incopro – both brand protection agencies – on behalf of the British Hallmarking Council and the Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office. Insights were drawn from online monitoring of UK marketplaces (Amazon, Depop, eBay, Freeadsd, Fruugo, Gumtree, PostAdsUK and Preloved) and social media (Facebook and Instagram) for 10 days from 21/03/2019 to 01/04/2019. The research ONLY looked at items sold as “gold”. It did not include other precious metal items. 

The research looked at:

  • how many items are sold as “gold” without a hallmark being referenced in the title or the text of a listing or post. This excluded gold –plated, rolled, golden, coated, bonded, vintage; items pre-1950. And focused on products; bracelet, chain, necklace, ring.
  • How many “gold” items are sold as bearing a UK hallmark, but where a price would indicate that this is too low.
  • How many items are sold as bearing a hallmark accepted in the UK.

The research found:

  • 11,280 listings for products where a hallmark had been detected
  • 6,377 listings for products where a hallmark had not been detected
  • 135 listings for products being sold with a non-UK Hallmark detected
  • 4,278 suspected infringing items for sale
  • 2,893 suspected infringing listings on the top UK platforms for less than 50% RRP
  • **£1,143,383 potential infringer revenue from suspicious listings. This was calculated by applying the value of scrap gold to the 6,377 listings for products where a hallmark had not been detected and the 135 listings for products being sold with a non-UK Hallmark detected.
  • And that sellers on eBay accounted for over half (56%) of all gold jewellery being sold, with no mention of a hallmark in the listing

The report also looked at suspiciously priced hallmarked items – those at 50% or less of RRP – and found possible counterfeiting activities of several types of jewellery:

Listings Rings Bracelets Chains Necklaces Cufflinks
Number of listings at 50% RRP 316 208 131 101 7
Number of listings 1,581 496 321 450 45

 

What is a Hallmark?

Official hallmarking is the trusted way to guarantee that you are getting the correct purity of precious metals in your jewellery. In the UK, all jewellery that is sold as having been made with gold, silver, platinum or palladium, must be hallmarked according to the Hallmarking Act 1973. *The hallmarking law exempts precious metal objects that weigh under a certain number of grams. This could mean small jewellery items like stud earrings or pendants. Jewellery does not have to be hallmarked if it weighs under:

  • 1 gram for gold
  • 0.5 gram for platinum & palladium
  • 7.78 grams for silver

Only jewellery that carries an officially registered British or international hallmark can be sold in the UK. A hallmark will usually include the Assay Office town mark, together with 2-4 additional marks, such as a date letter, a metal standard symbol or a duty stamp. There are hundreds of registered hallmark elements.

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