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Symbol stamped on an item of silver or gold to indicate that it conforms to legal standards of purity. Hallmarking in Britain dates from 1300; no gold or silver could be sold until tested for purity and struck with the king's mark. A maker's mark was introduced in 1363; at first a symbol, such as a fish or key, it came to include or be replaced by initials. A hallmark was a mark made at Goldsmith's Hall, London. In the U.S., no hallmarks were initially required. In the late 18th and early 19th century, local regulations were established in New York, Boston, Baltimore, and elsewhere; makers' marks appeared and the words coin and sterling were stamped on silver objects. In 1906 the use of the words came under federal regulation. Hallmarks on gold, similar to those on silver, are also subject to federal regulation.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on hallmark, visit Britannica.com.