NAJ News

Q&A: JBN Congress Speaker Marion Wilson on Hallmarking Hazards

20 May 2022

Marion Wilson

Protecting the integrity of hallmarking and ensuring customers don’t get duped by unscrupulous online practices is the responsibility of the entire jewellery trade. At this year’s Retail Jewellers’ Congress, hosted by the JET Business Network on Monday, June 13, 2022, Marion Wilson will discuss the HALO Award and a recent project she completed for the British Hallmarking Council. 

Discover the NAJ Summit 2022

At the Retail Jewellers’ Congress, part of the second annual NAJ Summit 2022, Wilson will ask whether independent retail jewellers are doing enough to support hallmarking and will question if this methodology for identifying precious metals is the “forgotten USP” of the trade. Here, she answers our pre-Congress questions to give those planning to attend a taste of what to expect. 

What were your core findings in your research project commissioned by the British Hallmarking Council and sponsored by The Goldsmiths’ Company?

The brief was to create a proposal to ensure that the benefits of the UK Hallmarking regime continue to deliver a level playing field and support consumer confidence thereby creating a fair, stable and flourishing market for UK jewellers. The project began in March 2020, just as the COVID pandemic began. It considered three key aspects: enforcement, relevant legislation and consumer awareness.

The project was informed by three key sources:

  • Previous research amongst jewellers and consumers commissioned from outside agencies in 2019 and 2020
  • Interviews with key stakeholders, including Trading Standards representatives, consumer champions and jewellers
  • A desktop audit of jewellery websites

In summary, the findings were that many compliant UK jewellers believe online marketplaces to be using misleading descriptions and selling un-hallmarked items, thereby competing unfairly and damaging the legitimate jewellery business. The opportunity to mislead deliberately or unknowingly, and effectively cheat the customer is high because consumer awareness and understanding of hallmarks is poor – just 37% of consumers know what a hallmark is! 

However, when a potential customer searches for jewellery online there is rarely any information to differentiate the legitimate jewellery from that which to an expert eye is blatantly not what it seems. Trading Standards currently have neither the resource nor the knowledge to tackle this issue. The best solution is to improve consumer awareness. Legitimate jewellers could do a lot to support this by promoting the hallmark and all the reassurance it brings at every opportunity. The HALO Award seeks to encourage this.

What are some steps that retailers can take to enhance the presence of hallmarking in their stores and online? 

My impression is that the majority of NAJ members ensure that their sales assistants are well versed in the benefits of hallmarking. Whether they need to be reminded to always use that knowledge to the best effect when selling could be considered. Understanding the importance of hallmarks is important to everyone in the business. Retailers may find it useful to regularly check the knowledge of their marketing team, particularly those working in digital and social media, quality control and sales reps out on the road. They all have a part to play in educating the consumer and promoting the importance of the hallmark.

Product mix has shifted enormously over the past 15 years and jewellers may now be selling silver-plated base metal (i.e., unhallmarked), gold plated silver (hallmarked as silver) and top-end base metal on base metal branded costume jewellery. This complex but commercially necessary mix makes confident understanding and full promotion of the hallmark even more important. Refresher training can easily be done in-house or online.

What changes are happening behind the scenes at the British Hallmarking Council to tackle some of these issues? 

The British Hallmarking Council (BHC) recognises that the printed ‘Dealers Notice’ explaining hallmarking is of limited benefit now that the internet is the key source of information for most consumers in the UK. A digital Dealers Notice was created in 2021, specifically for use online but there does not appear to have been significant uptake on this so far. Jewellers could also improve awareness by using the word ‘Hallmarked’ in their product category headings online – e.g., “9ct gold hallmarked chains” and ensure that the word “hallmark” – and a simple explanation as offered by BHC - can be found on the search function on the website. The desktop audit of several key jewellers’ websites revealed how very difficult it is to find hallmarking information online even when the user is searching for it.

Some NAJ members also subscribe to the ‘Assay Assured’ Scheme operated by Edinburgh Assay Office. This involves an audit of the website by Edinburgh to ensure that the site is hallmarking compliant. The scheme potentially differentiates the site from others and offers consumer confidence online. It would be beneficial if more jewellers were to join and for existing members to promote it to better effect. See www.assayassured.com for more information

Can you share more information about HALO and initiatives between the BHC and NAJ?

The NAJ works tirelessly to support its members and one of the key threats it recognises is the unfair competition from the global online market. The BHC is a government body and operates under strict regulation. Ten of its members are appointed by the relevant Secretary of State and serve a three-year term. Typically, one of the appointed members will be a member of the National Association of Jewellers, most recently Harriet Kelsall and Chris Sellors have served on the Hallmarking Council. NAJ’s National Committee recognises the importance of hallmarks for those who sell fine jewellery and are strongly backing the innovation of the HALO Award as well supporting the Touchstone Award, which encourages Trading Standards Officers to enforce hallmarking.

What do you hope attendees will take away from your talk at the Retail Jewellers' Congress?

I hope they will go back and assess whether their sales teams are making the most of the benefits of the hallmark, look at their websites with fresh eyes, do an internet search on one of their best-selling hallmarked jewellery categories and consider if they are really promoting the forgotten USP that all legitimate UK jewellers have – the reassurance of a UK Hallmark.

 

About Marion Wilson

Marion was a key driver in Birmingham Assay Office’s diversification, introducing new services to the jewellery industry from 2000 onwards. Her widespread experience during twenty years as Sales and Marketing Director included regular participation in UK trade events, The Chartered Trading Standards Institute, CIBJO, the NAJ and close involvement in the British Hallmarking Council (BHC). The revealing findings of her 2020 report on hallmarking enforcement commissioned by the BHC are the foundations of a new hallmarking education initiative for online jewellers launched in 2021.

 

Find out more about joining the JET Business Network here. Reach out to an existing JBN member to get first-hand advice about joining by emailing: michael@thevalueinnovator.co.uk.

Visit HALO Awards

 

Source: National Association of Jewellers