Hallmarking in Italy:
Before 1870 Italy was a diverse group of kingdoms, duchies and city states. The land was ruled in absentia by France, Austria, Spain and the Vatican. The marks on precious metals up until 1872 were as diverse and as complex as the politics and the power struggles of the ruling classes.
With the conquest of Rome in 1870 and the end of Stato Pontificio (Papal State), Italy attained its unity. Also an unique system of hallmarking was introduced in the Regno d'Italia (Kingdom of Italy). The law of May 1872 deregulated the silver production and introduced a not compulsory inspection of silver artifacts.
In the past Italian silversmiths rarely submitted their pieces to the optional official hallmarking. Silver pieces were usually only marked with the '800' (purity degree 800/1000), sometimes coupled with the silversmith's hallmark. The '800' was an unofficial mark and there was no uniformity in its shape. The law of February 1934 number 305 introduced uniformity in the shape of silversmith's marks. The new mark identifying the silversmith consisted of a lozenge containing:
The lozenge was coupled to an oval containing the purity degree 800 or 925 per thousand.
The Law of October 1944 with the number 313 ordered the elimination of the 'fascio' (symbol of 'fascism') maintaining into the lozenge only the number (identification of the silversmith) and the 2 initials of the Province. The availability of new lozenges was not immediate and for a short period of time the old marks with the obliterated 'fascio' were maintained.
The Laws January 1968 and December 1970 number 1496 introduced new hallmarks for silver and precious metals. The mark was modified to a polygonal shape and a star was added on the left. Numbers and Province letter were maintained. Purity degree 925, 835 and 800 per thousand were allowed and inscribed into an oval outlined mark. This system is still in use in present days.
Since 1968, every piece manufactured in Italy must have at least 2 hallmarks, this is regulated by a special Italian law: the metal title and the manufacturer one.
The metal title:
The example above is valid and obligatory starting from 30th of january 1968, (law n. 46), of course you can find them even in pieces manufactured before but at that time some hallmarks title like “18 KT” or “14 KT” were present as well.
The manufacturer hallmark:
Every piece must be connected with the manufacturer for checking the title congruity. The law is very severe and a tolerance of only 1/000 is allowed.
Example of a manufacturer hallmark
The star stands for the Italian republic symbol, this is followed by a progressive number and the province name where the factory is located.
Only the province name of ROME is fully displayed in Italian hallmarks. Other provinces will only have 2 letters, for example: Milan (MI), Naples (NA), Florence (FI), Parma (PA), Rimini (RN), etc.
The above is valid for Italy and EU only. If a finished product is manufactured in Italy for the export market to a non EU country, the identification hallmark is not obligatory. Article 25, decree of the president of the Italian republic number 150 of the 30th of May 2002.
In most European countries, including France and Great Britain, an item is not legal for sale without a hallmark. Germany doesn’t have hallmarking, but it’s the exception. A few countries, like Austria and Norway, have optional hallmarking. Italy doesn’t require hallmarking but it has better registration of the maker, a specific number, so what you see as an Italian mark was placed there by the maker. It’s a little more formal than any other maker’s voluntary marking.
The practice of hallmarking is being adopted at an increasing rate across the world. A clear example of this is the increasing size of the members of the International Convention on Hallmarks which has expanded from 7 when it began in the 1970s to 19 today. Italy has just applied to join.
The International Association of Assay Offices has also seen a similar expansion. Many of the new members originate from outside of Europe, reflecting the global nature of the jewellery trade. India, the largest democracy in the world, is in the process of introducing a hallmarking regime, as is Pakistan.
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