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Precious metal ruling sparks hallmark rush; JEWELLERY: Buyers turn to palladium as value alternative to gold.

Byline: ANNA BLACKABY

Huge demand for low-cost white precious metal jewellery has seen a rush to hallmark thousands of palladium items since the precious metal was made "official" last month.

Nearly 5,000 articles were hallmarked by the four UK Assay Offices in Birmingham, Edinburgh, London and Sheffield in the first nine days after a change in the law created the palladium hallmark on July 22.

Palladium seems to be tapping into growing demand for white precious metal jewellery in the last few months, in sharp contrast to the introduction of hallmarking of platinum in 1975 where for the first nine years less than 100 units were handled each year.

"Ware very encouraged by the positive response to palladium hallmarking

The metal, which is a member of the platinum group, has proved an attractive proposition to many jewellery buyers in the current economic climate as it is tarnish-resistant and durable but much less dense and expensive than platinum, meaning the same look can be achieved at a fraction of the price.

Birmingham Assay Office chief executive Michael Allchin, who has worked at the heart of the jewellery trade as previ-ous fashions have come and gone, is not surprised by current trends.

He said: "The rising price of gold coupled with the increasing choice of quality well-made jewellery in silver, platinum and now palladium makes white metal very attractive.

"We are very encouraged by the positive response to palladium hallmarking. So far most of the items we have seen have been wedding rings, but there is some men's jewellery around and we expect to see designers experimenting widely with this "new" metal now that consumers have the additional reassurance of a hallmark." The Birmingham Assay Office, which as the largest of its kind in the world handles over 12 million articles per year, said age-old traditions have been quietly overturned in the past few months.

Volumes of 9ct gold - the long serving old faithful of every woman's jewellery box - have been in drastic decline, from nearly 24 million articles in 2001 - 70 per cent of all items hallmarked - to only 8 million in 2008.

This year so far 3.5 million silver items have been marked, as opposed to only 2.9 million 9ct gold.

This is in contrast to a growing demand for "white gold" - created in 9ct and 18ct by adding different elements to traditional alloys, and platinum which contributes around 300,000 units per year.

The palladium hallmark, like all other UK hallmarks can only be struck in the UK by one of the four independent Assay Offices.

Every item of gold silver or platinum sold in the UK must be hallmarked, unless it is under a specified weight, and the hallmarking numbers released by the four UK Assay Offices are an excellent barometer of trends in the market.

Hallmarking of palladium jewellery is still optional, but will become compulsory in January next year for any items weighing more than one gramme.

It has been heralded by jewellers because it lets them create new designs that might not have been possible with more heavy metals.

CAPTION(S):

A piece of the new Badge of Office for The Assay Master, designed and made by Martyn Pugh of Redditch Birmingham Assay Office chief Michael Allchin says he is not surprised at the huge demand for the newly hallmarked palladium jewellery
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 17, 2009
Words:560
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