Proposals for harmonising marks on jewellery across Europe are threatening the strong safeguards provided in this country by the British hallmarking tradition … One proposal in a European Directive promulgated eight years ago permits manufacturers and importers across Europe to mark their own jewellery without any outside audit of their procedures. One consequence of these changes will be that all the pictorial characters much loved by the British public, such as the lion passant in sterling silver, the orb in platinum and the crown in gold, will become optional marks at extra cost … these proposals … will also make it much easier for criminals caught in possession of stolen goods to escape conviction.
(The Times, 11 March 1998)
This initiative in fact came when a majority of Member States requested that the European Commission propose legislation in this area. The Commission put forward a proposal for a Directive in 1994 which aimed at harmonising hallmarks and certification throughout the Community.
The proposed Directive leaves each Member State to choose from amongst three certification procedures, of which the British hallmark is one. Therefore, the British hallmarking tradition is not being threatened. The choice of which label to adopt will be left up to the producers and national organisations. There is no reason to believe that future labels will be more vague than the existing ones.
Quality control will continue to be carried out exclusively by national authorities. A control mechanism to avoid the use of the same labels in different Member States, and a register of the authorised hallmark offices in each country will also be established, thus making it harder for criminals with stolen goods to escape conviction. The Directive also removes existing barriers to trade in articles of precious metals on the European market and provides better protection to customers from fake products.