British Silver Hallmarking

British Silver Hallmarking

The process of hallmarking has been in use since the Byzantine period around the modern day city of Istanbul. Stamped hallmarks were introduced to the production process in Western Europe around the 14th century with individual maker’s marks and later dates being added.

Hallmarking is a vital process used to confirm the quality of a product and its purity, an important aspect as often precious metals are combined with non precious metals to add durability or even change the appearance.

The UK has one of the most detailed hallmarking systems for Silver in the world providing a wealth of information for owners. Items must possess an assayers mark, indicating the purity of silver used.

The date mark is used to indicate the year of manufacture and not as obvious as it might sound. Various combinations of upper and lower case letters are used in conjunction with different typefaces to identify particular years of manufacture.

The city mark indicates where an item was made as with Gold hallmarking this is usually a symbol such as an Anchor for Birmingham, a Lion for London and a Crown for Sheffield. Items also possess an individual maker’s mark often in the form of a set of initials.

The following hallmarks are no longer in use but may still be present on historic silver pieces.

In 1784 it was required by law to add a Silver hallmarks indicating that the requisite taxes had been paid to the crown. This hallmark took the form of a profile of the reigning monarch but was removed in 1890.

Another mark no longer used is the Tally mark. Similar to the makers mark this symbol was used by individuals to track the work that they had personally done to ensure correct remuneration for their work.

An international hallmarking standard was adopted in 1973 with a common control mark being used by all signatories to the Vienna Convention. Today there are countless different hallmarks from around the world and knowing each of them is a specialised task in its own right although internet pages are available should you wish to identify a particular hallmark.

You should always check precious metal items for hallmarking as it indicates a level of quality and purity. Although rare you should also be aware that forgeries do sadly exist which is a reason in part for the detailed information that is provided through the hallmarking system. Genuine hallmarks should have clearly defined edges under examination and easily match with the known marks which can be found through an internet search.




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