Myth: The British hallmark, the guarantee of the quality of silver or gold for some 600 years, will soon be replaced by an anonymous Euro number thanks to the European Commission.
Response: This is untrue. The Commission is currently working on a proposal for a Directive which aims to harmonise hallmarks and certification throughout the Community (ie. the proofs of quality of objects made of precious metal).
In fact, the majority of Member States, but not all, require that three different hallmarks appear on the object: first that of the producer, second that of the number of carats and third that of the state organisation responsible for monitoring the product. In the UK, the latter two hallmarks are stamped by the same person. The draft directive proposes to preserve the first two of these marks. Originally it was indeed envisaged that the State hallmark would have been replaced by a number. This idea has been abandoned. From now on the state body will continue to monitor the quality of the products as it has always done, but it will no longer have its own hallmark stamped on the product itself. These details will be noted on a register and will eventually be available on a database.
The Commission should have completed work on this proposal within the next six weeks.
Update as of January 1994:
This initiative in fact comes from the majority of member states who insisted that the European Commission propose legislation in this area.
The proposed Directive leaves each member state to choose from amongst three certification procedures, of which the British hallmark is one. Therefore it is quite likely that the British hallmark will in fact be taken up by a number of other countries as well.
Quality control and labelling will continue to be carried out exclusively by national authorities, not by some centralised EU organisation. The only things to be centralised are 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.