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Last update: 20/11/2012
Precious metals control has been practised in most European countries for hundreds of years. It was originally established to verify the precious metal content in gold and silver coins; nowadays this control is mainly applied to jewellery, silverware and watchcases. Due to ancient traditions and local particularities, every country has developed its own regulations on precious metals control, with its own finenesses, sampling, testing, marking and technical requirements. Some countries require a compulsory control and hallmarking of every article by an independent body; other countries have a voluntary hallmarking system or require marking by the manufacturer only.
All these technical and legal requirements hamper the cross border trade of articles of precious metal. Following lengthy discussions during the 1960's, the Convention on the Control and Marking of Articles of Precious Metals (the name was shortened to Hallmarking or Vienna Convention) was signed in Vienna in November 1972. It entered into force in 1975.
The Convention was signed by the following Members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) at that time: Austria, Finland, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. However, participation in the Hallmarking Convention was from the start open to other countries having the necessary arrangements for the assay and marking of articles of precious metals. The Convention has since been joined by Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovak Republic, and Slovenia. Four other countries are presently in the process of acceding (Croatia, Italy, Sri Lanka and the Ukraine) while others have shown an interest (e.g. Romania, Serbia, Singapore, etc.). A number of other countries (e.g. China, Russia) follow the work carried out by the Standing Committee on a regularly basis.