Throughout the nineteenth century and still today , every British-made silver object offered for sale was required to bear four marks struck into the metal in a conspicuous place. One, the sterling mark, showed that the piece had been tested at the assay office and found to have met the standard of purity for sterling Smaller centers used other sterling marks, such as a thistle in Edinburgh and a harp crowned in Dublin. A third mark was the date mark, a letter of the alphabet used for the twelve-month period during which the piece was assayed. The style and even the number of letters varied from office to office. London, for example, used only a—u, Chester used the entire alphabet, and both omitted j.
Everything You Need to Know About Identifying Silver
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Date Letters. Date letters were first introduced in in London. New English regulations at the time required all gold and silver artifacts to be.
Learn about how to value silverware, with our ValueMyStuff valuations and appraisals experts. Discover what to look out for and how it can impact the value. Like jewellery but unlike most other antiques, silverware has an intrinsic value tied to the price of gold and silver bullion. Your silverware is also, however, may be worth far more than its value as base metal; although the market for antique silver has not been at its strongest in recent years, quality pieces appraised by an expert continue to fetch high prices.
For many pieces, age is key. For a silver fork, for example, authentic wear which supports an early date by hallmark can indicate a high value as forks only began to see widespread use in Britain in the late 17th century. Similarly, revival-style pieces, such as 19th century rococo, are usually less valuable than the originals despite similarities in appearance. If genuine, hallmarks can usually successfully date a silver piece, shown in British marks by a combination of the date letter and assay office mark.
Beware, however, some countries such as the United States have had no comprehensive system of marks. Particular silversmiths and their high-quality work are, as you might expect, hugely sought after and command high prices. While nothing legitimate can be done to change the maker of a piece, however, silverware often has an enhanced collective value when placed with other similar pieces. As can be imagined matching sets, in particular of desirable sizes such as sets of 12 silver plates or complete cutlery sets, reach significantly higher prices than the sum of the value of individual pieces.
The value of collections can tie in with the condition of silverware.
Hallmarks on Period Jewelry
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British & Irish Silver Date Letters To date your silver from its hallmark, first identify the assay office (e.g. anchor for Birmingham, leopard’s head for London, etc.).
Antique silver hallmarks have been used to control the quality of goods made of silver since the 14th century and the organisation that regulates the craft, Goldsmiths Hall, gave the world the term hallmark. This is to ensure it is of the required sterling silver standard and, provided it conforms to a standard, a series of symbols are stamped into each part of the item. Today and for the past few centuries, this stamp or silver hallmark has shown the place and year of manufacture of the assayed silver item, as well as the silversmith who made or sponsored the item.
The laws governing silver hallmarking are very strict and if an item does not comply with a standard the item will not be hallmarked and will probably be destroyed. A false silver hallmark has always been treated with the utmost severity by the law and in the past a silversmith was pilloried for their first offence, where they would be pelted with rotten fruit and vegetables.
There was a simple reason for this seemingly Draconian behaviour in that the manufacture of silver and gold was allied to the minting of currency. Therefore, by debasing silver or gold, the offender was undermining the coin of the realm. A treasonable offence in times when treason was punished by death. Sometimes called the Sterling Mark, the lion passant, the mark for Made in England, first appeared on English silver and gold in For two years it was crowned, but has been struck ever since in its present form by all English Assay Offices.
Used from the inception of the Sheffield Assay Office in , the Crown was the town mark of Sheffield. Because of possible confusion with the Crown mark used after , as the hallmark for 18ct gold , the Sheffield assay mark was changed on January 1st for a rose. Which had incidentally, been used as the gold assay mark for Sheffield when the Assay Office was first entitled to test gold, after March 1st Between and the crown is often incorporated with the date letter struck on small objects.
Chinese export silver – a guide for new collectors
The vast majority of English, Scottish and Irish silver produced in the last years is stamped with either four or five symbols, known as hallmarks. The prime purpose of these marks is to show that the metal of the item upon which they are stamped is of a certain level of purity. The metal is tested and marked at special offices, regulated by the government, known as assay offices.
Only metal of the required standard will be marked.
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Antique English Silver
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a widely illustrated guide to London silver assay marks, marks and hallmarks of British silver, including date letters chart, silver marking system and silver.
Antique sterling silver folding fruit knife and fork, each marked with duty head and lion passan…. A pair of sterling silver comports by Tiffany, the pattern number of means they would have…. A very rare Scottish antique sterling silver medal by William Robb, carries a full set of Edinbu…. New sterling silver pointing finger bookmark hallmarked from Edinburgh with the makers mark bein…. The l…. Rare antique silver safety razor case box with fitted interior, made by the highly respected mak….
Novelty silver coal scuttle sugar bowl, hallmarked from Birmingham in with the makers mark ….
Nineteenth-Century English Silver
Chinese export silver was produced in China from the midth to midth century for a largely Western audience. It was made in the European style from melted Spanish silver historically, the only currency Chinese merchants would accept for the trading of goods, such as tea, silks and spices, out of China , and falls largely into three periods: early-, late- and post-China Trade.
In the midth century, European trade with China was restricted to the port of Canton now known as Guangzhou , which facilitated the collection of taxes on exported goods under the Qianlong Emperor, who reigned between and
DATE LETTERS – TO The date letters below show the background shape for silver. The same letters were used for Gold, which has been marked in.
The Museum holds the National Collection of English silver, and has strong collections of European silver, particularly from Spain and Germany. Among these objects are some extraordinary survivals. An English incense holder and censer made around for the monks of Ramsey Abbey were discovered in the mud of a drained lake in Huntingdonshire, while an exquisite frame made for Louis XIV of France is the only surviving work of royal goldsmith Pierre Germain.
This display demonstrates the work of young silversmiths as they embark on their careers. The beauty, lustre and intrinsic value of silver have made it an object of admiration and aspiration for centuries. The Victoria and Albert Museum has more English silver and a greater range of objects than any other public collection worldwide. It also features a small but significant collection of Judaica objects used in Jewish worship.
The collection dates from early medieval times to the present day. Paul de Lamerie was the greatest silversmith working in England in the 18th century.
LAPADA Guide to Reading British Silver Hallmarks
Silver Dictionary’ of A Small Collection of Antique Silver and Objects of vertu , a pages richly illustrated website offering all you need to know about antique silver, sterling silver, silverplate, Sheffield plate, electroplate silver, silverware, flatware, tea services and tea complements, marks and hallmarks, articles, books, auction catalogs, famous silversmiths Tiffany, Gorham, Jensen, Elkington , history, oddities In Scotland the craft was theoretically supervised by the Edinburgh Goldsmiths’ Incorporation, but in practice its influence outside the capital was limited and a plethora di unofficial Scottish Provincial marks was created.
London leopard’s head crowned until
Nearly all pieces of Chinese export silver are stamped with the marks of the workshop, or with pseudo hallmarks in imitation of English.
English silver has, for hundreds of years, been accepted as the finest in the world. We can thank both the unique system of Hallmarks and the jealous and zealous traditions of the Guild of Goldsmiths. The insignia of the town or city in which the test was made. A letter of the alphabet is used to illustrate a given year, thus representing the date.
Since many cycles of alphabets can be written in different ways A, a, A, etc. In addition to the above marks, the silversmith may place his own identifying mark upon the silver, usually his initials.
British / English Silver Hallmarks
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Hallmarks on British & Irish Silver. To date your silver from its hallmark first identify the assay office (e.g. anchor for Birmingham, leopard’s head for London, etc.).
Over the next 50 years, Birks expanded by buying up established jewellers across the country. They also took over their rivals in manufacturing until they had a virtual monopoly on the production and sale of sterling silverware in Canada. Birks acquired several more designs from Gorham and other manufacturers later in the century and also designed a few of their own patterns like Tudor and Laurentian. Birks manufactured their own flatware and some of their hollowware in their factory in Montreal up until the early s when the factory was closed and production was moved offshore.
In the early part of the century, the factory employed nearly people. Some of their hollowware was purchased from manufacturers in the UK and the US and sold under the Birks label. Birks sterling marks varied throughout their history which helps us to date their pieces. In Birks received permission from the London assay office to mark their sterling silver with a date letter that corresponded to the London assay office date letter.
They produced a wide range of silver hollowware and flatware.