Posted on January 02, 2022
If you’ve ever seen a piece of gold, silver, or platinum bullion, you may have noticed a pair of strange-looking French words on the metal. This mark is actually quite common and, though seemingly unimportant, can tell you a lot about precious metals bullion.
The French “Essayeur Fondeur” translates literally to “assayer founder” or “foundry tester.” In plain English, this simply means that the founder – in this case, the refiner – has assayed (tested) a precious metal and is attesting to, and vouching for, its purity and quality.
The Essayeur Fondeur mark appears on gold, silver, platinum, and palladium bullion from four of the five largest and most highly-regarded precious metals refineries in the world. You can find Essayeur Fondeur on various Swiss bullion products, with ingots and other bullion bars being the most easily recognized example.
The Essayeur Fondeur trademark is featured on the smallest weights like 1 gram to the largest gold bars up to 400 ounces. Though the mark might be overlooked on other bullion products, Essayeur Fondeur can sometimes be spotted on armillary coins and various sizes of bullion rounds.
Switzerland is a small European country surrounded by large, influential neighboring countries. There is no singular Swiss language; rather, the four national languages of Switzerland are French, German, Italian, and Romansh. While it might seem strange to use French in Switzerland, French is actually the second most popular language among the Swiss.
The Swiss refiners who use the Essayeur Fondeur mark are Valcambi SA, PAMP SA, Metalor Technologies SA and Cendres & Métaux SA. Since Essayeur Fondeur is used by multiple large refiners, each of these assayers also includes its own logo beside the Essayeur Fondeur mark imprinted on their bullion.
In addition to the refiner’s identifying symbol and the Essayeur Fondeur mark, bullion products also include the weight of the bullion in grams or ounces, the fineness (or purity) of the metal and a unique serial number. London bullion market Good Delivery certification requires many of these pieces of information – like the stamp of the refiner, fineness, and serial number – on precious metals bullion.
Among the five major Swiss refiners, the only Essayeur Fondeur outlier is Argor-Heraeus SA. Instead of the Essayeur Fondeur mark, Argor-Heraeus chooses to print the words “Melter Assayer” in English on its bullion bars and rounds.
The refineries include a mark like Essayeur Fondeur or Melter Assayer on their bullion to assure everyone of the product’s authenticity. In a sense, this mark serves the same purpose as the government guarantee of purity bullion buyers expect when purchasing bullion coins rather than bars. Everyone in the precious metals industry knows that a flawless reputation for honesty and fair dealing is the most important asset any mint or refiner can have.
The Essayeur Fondeur stamp on a bullion bar tells the buyer that one of the world’s largest refiners stands behind the purity and quality of the finished product.
While London doesn’t require the Essayeur Fondeur mark, it does serve as a certificate of authenticity, showing that the refinery has tested and certified the precious metals in the bullion product they manufactured.