Precious metals control has been practised in most European countries for hundreds of years. The control 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 standards of fineness as well as its own testing and marking requirements. Some countries require a compulsory control and hallmarking of every article by an independent body; other countries have a voluntary hallmarking system, where the third-party control is optional; and there are some countries which have no specific control system in place.

All these technical and legal requirements are considered as “barriers to trade” and hamper the cross border trade of articles of precious metal. Following lengthy discussions during the 1960s, the “Convention on the Control and Marking of Articles of Precious Metals” was signed in Vienna (Austria) in November 1972. It entered into force in 1975.

The Founding Members of the Convention were the States party to the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) at that time, i.e. Austria, Finland, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. However, participation in the 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 Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovak Republic, and Slovenia. For the accession dates, see here.

Four other countries are presently in the process of acceding (Italy, Serbia, Sri Lanka and the Ukraine) while others have shown an interest (e.g. Romania). A number of other countries (e.g. China, Mongolia) follow the work carried out by the Standing Committee on a regularly basis.