Dating english silver date letters
The first silver hallmarking was confined to Goldsmiths’ Hall in London but in time other assay offices were opened.
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 1773.
Dublin silver is struck with a crowned harp, to which a seated figure of Hibernia was added in 1731.
Sequences of historical marks for the following offices can be viewed through the links below (reproduced courtesy of the British Hallmarking Council).
In 18th and 19th century Scotland more than 30 different silversmithing centres were active from Aberdeen to Wick with each ‘hammerman’ using their own mark.
Specialist publications are essential for locating and unstanding the meaning of a huge proliferation of different marks and symbols used on Scottish provincial silver.
London Hallmarks Birmingham Hallmarks Sheffield Hallmarks Edinburgh Hallmarks Collectors will often place a premium on silver hallmarked in other regional centres which have since closed.
Some of these ceased hallmarking as early as the Stuart period (the Norwich assay office identified by a crowned lion passant and a crowned rosette shut in 1701), while others such as Chester (three wheat sheaves and a sword) and Glasgow (a tree, bird, bell and fish) were still operating into the post-war era.
This measure was continued until 1720 and all silver marked between those two dates bore a lion’s head and the figure of Britannia in place of the lion passant.Following a successful conclusion to one of the largest cases of its type in years, a serial forger was jailed in 2008 for the faking and forging of antique silver makers' marks.ATG's report of the case Assay Office's published guide detailing many of the fakes and forgeries Historically the standard mark for sterling (.925 purity) silver in Britain has been a lion passant and this will be found on the majority of pieces.For a variety of reasons this practice was not always adhered to and the resulting anomalies can be seen in the tables of marks.
However, the date letter system allows antique plate to be dated more accurately than almost all other antiques.
Dublin’s assay office has been operating since the middle of the 17th century and silver is still marked there.