Welcome to Purely Silver. The PURELY PERFECT solution to all those questions on silver. On this site you can find information on the history of silver, silver hallmarks, makers, styles, including designs such as cherubs and types of silver which have occurred over the eras of time.
Silver has been valued as a precious metal for many years. It has been used for jewellery, ornaments, vesta cases, vinaigrettes, flatware and tableware.
Silver, although soft, is harder than gold. Before platinum was widely available, silver was often used to mount precious stones such as diamonds. This method of mounting precious gems was particularly used during the Georgian era.
In early times the craft of the silversmith or goldsmith was known as the "Mystery". In the year 1180, an association or "guild" of goldsmiths or silversmiths could be fined for being irregularly established without the King's licence (adulterine), and in the year 1238, an order was made by King Henry III commanding the Mayor and Aldermen of London to choose six of the most discreet goldsmiths of the city to superintend the "craft". This order was carried out and the six discreet goldsmiths were succeeded by others in the office of superintendents or wardens of the craft. By the year 1300 they were recognised and referred to as "gardiens", a part of whose duties were to assay every vessel of silver before it passed from the hands of the workers and mark it with the Leopards Head. The Leapords Head is still used today as the hallmark for London.
Silvermakers and goldsmiths are now required to assay their items by law. Antique silver items may be missing some or all of the marks for many reasons including the fact that the item may not be of the required weight. Very small items were often exempt from the hallmarking act.
Reference: English Goldsmiths and their Marks by Sir Charles J Jackson FSA published 1921