When the UK left the European Union, the 1998 European Court of Justice ‘Houtwipper Agreement’ (which enabled mutual recognition of hallmarks between member states of the EU) was ended.
This has meant that items bearing UK national marks cannot access those countries in the EU which are not part of the Hallmarking Convention (another mutual recognition arrangement between states).
Dr Robert Organ, deputy warden (assay master) of the Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office (the London Assay Office), said that since leaving the EU one of its major customers has moved its hallmarking from the UK to the Netherlands, which has had “a major impact on business”.
He also warned of the impact on antiques and added: “Some countries, notably France, are not accepting antique items with a UK mark – insisting they must be re-hal lmarked in France. This could reduce the item’s value and there is the danger that the market for antiques could be badly affected.”
For countries within the Hallmarking Convention, imports of antique silver and gold should not be impacted as they still recognise the British marks.
However, only 16 EU countries are signatories and markets including France, Spain, Belgium and Italy are not covered.
Dr Organ is currently surveying the situation and has been tasked by the BHC to prepare its report on this to help inform government. Sir John Hayes, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Craft, has already called on the government to act. Dr Organ is in discussion with the major antique associations but is also calling for evidence and anecdotal information from exporters of antique silver and gold.
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