The hallmarking of silver, gold and other precious metals is the oldest form of European consumer protection. Hallmarking is the official marking of silver, gold, platinum and palladium. Historically hallmarks were applied by official assaying offices. Before 1973 there used to be many hallmarking systems, but in 1973 a core group of European nations signed the Vienna Convention on the control of the fineness and the hallmarking of precious metal objects.
Members of the Vienna Convention are: Austria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Great Britain, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and Ukraine.
Assay offices are institutions set up to test the purity of (assay) precious metal items. Upon successful completion of the assay, the assay offices typically stamp a hallmark, punze (German) or poinçon (France) on the precious metal item to certify its metallurgical content. Hallmarking precious metals first appeared in Europe in France, with the Goldsmiths' Statute of 1260 promulgated under Etienne Boileau, Provost of Paris, for King Louis IX.