There hallmark was created in reference to these

There are over 1000 years of history regarding the use of silver hallmarks in the United Kingdom. In the year 1300, King Edward I of England enacted a statute that required all silver to be marked if it met the standard of sterling silver, which stipulated a millesimal fineness of 925 or, in layman’s terms, achieving a level of 92.5% silver purity. Almost all pieces of silver coming out of the UK from the last 500 years have a hallmark, authenticating both its purity level and indicating many other factors regarding its origins, date, and maker. Hallmarks are regulated by assay offices across England, Scotland, and Ireland. There are currently offices in five locations across the three countries: London, England; Sheffield, England; Birmingham, England; Edinburgh, Scotland; and, Dublin in the Republic of Ireland. The original assay headquarters were established in 1339, at Goldsmiths’ Hall in London. The word hallmark was created in reference to these headquarters, hallmark originally meaning “marked in Goldsmiths’ Hall”; by the mid-1800s the word had lost this meaning and was merely synonymous with the mark of quality. There have been an incredible amount of hallmarks created throughout the years, and many books are used to identify these marks. The standard, however, is the Bradbury’s Book of Hallmarks, which was last updated in 2014. By using this book, anyone can easily reference the hallmarks set into silver products from the UK. There are five steps in reading hallmarks: 1. Standard MarkThere are five standard marks on silver from the UK that denote where the silver was made: The walking lion marks sterling silver made in EnglandThe standing lion marks sterling silver made in GlasgowThe thistle marks sterling silver made in EdinburghThe crowned harp marks sterling silver made in DublinThe Britannia symbol marks all standard silver made in Britannia; standard silver is silver that is of a lower quality than 925 millesimal fineness – the minimum purity needed for silver to be labeled as sterling silverWhen there is no mark present on silver, it means that either it was not made in the UK or that it is merely silver plated, or gilded in silver. 2. Town MarkThere is a mark for the town in which the silver was hallmarked, which comes after the standard mark. There are an incredible amount of towns where silver has been hallmarked, but some are more common than others such as a leopard with a crown for silver hallmarked in London pre-1820, or a castle for silver hallmarked in Edinburgh. It is worth noting that Dublin is unique in its hallmarking of silver. The symbol for silver hallmarked in Dublin is a crowned harp, the same symbol for silver made in Dublin. Instead of putting two crowned harps onto silver both made and hallmarked in Dublin they instead leave one, single, crowned harp. 3. Duty MarkA duty mark only appears on silver made between 1784-1890. The purpose of a duty mark was to denote that there was tax paid on the silver. The duty mark was a profile portrait of the current reigning monarch, and there are five duty marks which feature four monarchs: King George IIIKing George IVKing William IVQueen Victoria The practice of using duty marks ended eleven years before King Edward the VII succeeded Queen Victoria. 4. Date MarkDate marks are made up of three parts: a letter, a font, and a shield. Only 20 letters are used in rotation, both in capital and lower case, making 40 different combinations of individual letters. The letter is paired with rotating fonts and shields to create a nearly endless array of combinations.Different towns use different date marks for each year, so the date mark used in London in 1900 will be different than the date mark used in Edinburgh in 1900. This means it is crucial to identify the town before you try to identify the date of a piece of silver. 5. Maker’s MarkA maker’s mark denotes the maker of the piece. Initially, it was a picture of the of the maker, but this was later replaced with the first two letters of their given name, which was in turn replaced with their initials. 6. Imported SilverWhile it is rare to find a piece of silver with an import mark, silver imported into the UK between the years 1867-1904  were marked with an F inside of an oval shield. In cases of imported silver, the maker’s mark would then be replaced with the mark of the British importing firm. Using steps 1-6 and a recent copy of the Bradbury’s Book of Hallmarks, even amateur antiquers should be able to take part in the identification of silver hallmarks.


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