By law in the UK, precious metals over a stipulated weight i. A hallmark can only be applied by one of the four UK Assay Offices. More information can be found in this guidance leaflet issued by the British Hallmarking Council. Hallmarks which are applied by member countries of the International Hallmarking Convention are also accepted. If you are considering investing in some precious metal or interested in antiques it is helpful to understand what hallmarks mean. The different symbols in a hallmark will tell you who made the item, what the standard of metal is, where it was hallmarked and possibly the date when it was hallmarked. The art of hallmarking in the UK has a long history; it dates back years, when a rigorous and very sophisticated system of hallmarking was developed.
ENGLISH SILVER MARKS
A series of marks usually four stamped on articles made of gold, silver, or platinum in the UK to indicate the maker, the hall or assay office making the mark, the quality of the metal, and the date of assay. Each of the four halls London, Birmingham, Sheffield, and Edinburgh have distinguishing marks e. The quality of gold was indicated by a carat mark 22, 18, 14, and 9 carats until , after which it was expressed in parts of gold per e.
The quality mark for sterling silver parts per in England is a lion passant and in Scotland a thistle or lion rampant. Britannia silver is indicated by a full-length figure of Britannia. Platinum is indicated by an orb.
Scottish hallmarks have been regulated by statute since but the earliest known example dates only from to Example Edinburgh Silver Hallmark -.
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Hallmarks, research and identification. Arminjon, Catherine. Imprimerie Nationale, Paris.
A Charles II silver Trefid spoon, London by William Tallbott. work I have found most useful when trying to date spoons and trace the sequence in which various which has so far only been seen in conjunction with Edinburgh marks.
Scotland is well-known for his clans, the fearless militaries going to the battlefield preceded by their pipers and the unspoiled nature of the Highlands with lochs, rivers, salmon and stags. Deciphering marks on silver items is a fascinating pastime for silver collectors, but mostly they have no idea of the background of these marks and the reason why specific punches were chosen as town mark or standard mark. The scope of this article is to trace back the origin of Scottish silver punches to the earliest times and to bring the reader up-to-date on this subject.
Hallmarks were for most part, freely adopted by individuals or clans at some point in the Middle Ages and in many cases it is impossible to define the meaning of it, if any. In particular cases however symbols and emblems of official seals were the source of town marks and were subsequently integrated in city coat of arms. As explained hereafter some punches are even linked to Scottish legends, which is not surprising as Scotland has an extensive heritage in that field.
This thistle mark was used as a national emblem of Scotland.
Since then, there have been ten Assay Offices in the UK. There are four Assay Offices operating in the UK today. Assay Office Birmingham was established by Act of Parliament and was opened in
The scope of this article is to trace back the origin of Scottish silver punches to the earliest times and to bring the reader up-to-date on this subject. Hallmarks.
See also the definitions page in this guide for additional information on hallmark components. Note at centre of the image at right the four elements of the hallmark. Detailed image of hallmark far right. Locate the assay office. If your item does not have one of the standard fineness marks, either traditional or numerical, then it is probably silver plate or is from another county.
Go no further. The date letter shows the year that assaying was carried out.
Silver Dictionary’ of A Small Collection of Antique Silver and Objects of vertu , a pages richly illustrated website offering all you need to know about antique silver, sterling silver, silverplate, Sheffield plate, electroplate silver, silverware, flatware, tea services and tea complements, marks and hallmarks, articles, books, auction catalogs, famous silversmiths Tiffany, Gorham, Jensen, Elkington , history, oddities In Scotland the craft was theoretically supervised by the Edinburgh Goldsmiths’ Incorporation, but in practice its influence outside the capital was limited and a plethora di unofficial Scottish Provincial marks was created.
London leopard’s head crowned until London leopard’s head uncrowned present. London lion head erased.
A silver object that is to be sold commercially is, in most countries, stamped with one or more silver hallmarks indicating the purity of the silver, the mark of the manufacturer or silversmith, and other (optional) markings to indicate date of manufacture and additional London and Edinburgh Assay Offices are the only two Assay offices.
The English hallmark system in the United kingdom goes back over years. Almost all pieces of silver coming out of the UK from the last years have an English silver hallmark, authenticating both its purity level and indicating many other factors regarding its origins, date, and maker. British silver hallmarks are regulated by assay offices across England, Scotland, and Ireland. There have been many hallmarks used throughout the years, and numerous guide books have been written on the subject. By using this book, anyone can easily decipher the hallmarks stamped into silver pieces from the UK.
There are five steps in reading hallmarks:.
The statute made it the responsibility of the Wardens of the Goldsmiths’ Guild to mark all items of sterling standard with a leopard’s head stamp. Today there are still offices in Edinburgh, where hallmarking has been regulated since the 15th century, and in Birmingham and Sheffield, where assay offices were established by an Act of Parliament in
If you are interested in purchasing antique jewellery or solid silver collectables, then The earliest known English hallmark dates back to A.D. when King Town Marks for London, Birmingham, Sheffield and Edinburgh.
The vast majority of English, Scottish and Irish silver produced in the last years is stamped with either 4 or 5 symbols, known as hallmarks. The prime purpose of these marks is to show that the metal of the item upon which they are stamped is of a certain level of purity. The metal is tested and marked at special offices, regulated by the government, known as assay offices. Only metal of the required standard will be marked.
It is a form of consumer protection, whose origin goes back almost years. There are so many different hallmarks found on British silver that to know all of them would be impossible. Fortunately, with the use of a single reference book, it is possible for even a complete novice to decipher the vast majority. Although there are many books on the market which can be used to help read hallmarks, the standard book of reference, used by dealers and collectors world wide is Bradbury’s Book of Hallmarks.
This pocket sized reference contains all of the marks that one is likely to encounter on a regular basis. Armed with this book, the process of reading these marks can be split into the 5 simple steps shown below. Bradbury’s book of hallmarks was last updated in by the Sheffield Assay office. It can be purchased directly from there or from any major book seller.