Silver information

History of Silver

Silver Hallmarks

British Silver Hallmarks were brought into use in the year 1327. From this date it was an offence to sell any precious metal without a hallmark although it was quite common for Victorian Jewellery not to be hallmarked. The hallmark consists of either four or five symbols. These are: The Makers Mark - This usually consists of the makers initials or makers special mark. The Assay Mark - This is the mark that shows where the item was tested / assayed. The Sterling Mark - This is depicted as a lion passant and means that the item is .925 pure silver. Sometimes the mark is shown as the Britannia and in British Hallmarks this shows that the item is of higher purity than the standard .925. The Duty Mark - This is depicted as the monarchs head and was used between 1st December 1784 and 30th April 1890 and shows that duty was paid on the item. Usually this mark should be present but sometimes silvermakers had ways of avoiding tax, so this mark may not always be present. Occasionally in later periods the monarchs head has been used to commemmorate special years such as coronations or jubilees. The Date Letter - This mark varies depending on the Assay Mark and shows the year the item was assayed. A list of examples will soon be available on this site so that you can date your silver.

The main Assay Marks are as follows:

London Hallmarks Date LettersLeopard London Assay Mark

Leopards Head for London

London has been the most important British Assay Office for the high quality of workmanship and the amount and variety of silverware passing through it. The Goldsmiths Company was the first office in England, authorised to assay and mark gold and silver. This followed the granting of a Royal Charter in 1327. The London Assay Office is still in operation today. After 1821 the leopards head became uncrowned whereas before it was crowned.

Birmingham Assay Mark

Anchor for Birmingham

The Birmingham Assay Office opened in 1773 which lead to the city quickly growing in importance as a centre for silversmithing. The assay mark is an anchor. For gold and platinum this is usually on its side.

Chester Hallmark

Shield with Sheaves of Corn for Chester

Chester had a guild of goldsmiths which supervised the assaying, making and selling of silver since the early 15th Century. The marking of silver became regulated in the late 17th Century. The city arms for Chester was a sword between three wheatsheaves and this was used to denote the Assay Mark for Chester. In 1701 this was changed to three wheatsheaves halved with three lions. Also from this date the figure of Britannia and the lions head erased were used. This was carried out until 1718.

The Chester Office was closed in 1962 making Chester Silver very collectible. Chester was renowned for small items such as beakers and cream jugs.

Castle Assay Mark for Exeter Castle for Exeter
Sheffield Assay Mark

Crown for Sheffield

The Sheffield Assay Office opened in 1773 and is best known for the production of candlesticks. The Assay Mark was the Crown until 1975 when it was changed to the York Rose. The Standard Mark is a lion passant. Between 1780 to 1853 a special stamp was used for small articles. This consisted of the crown mark and date letter combined. The Sheffield Office is still going today.

Sheffield Assay Mark

Half Leopard Head and Half Flowre-de-luye for York

York was one of the most important provincial cities in England during the Middle Ages and was the first provincial town to have "touches" by the Act of 1423. Its goldsmiths were given precedence over those of other guilds in the provinces.

Lion Passant for Sterling Silver Lion Passant to denote Silver Content of .925
 
  1. Leopards Head - London
  2. Anchor - Birmingham
  3. Shield - Chester (Closed in 1962)
  4. Castle (traditional towers) - Exeter (Closed in 1883)
  5. Crown - Sheffield
  6. Harp - Dublin
  7. Castle (pointed towers) - Edinburgh
  8. Three Castles - Newcastle (Closed in 1884)
  9. Tree - Glasgow
  10. Shield with Cross inside - York (Closed in 1858)