Hallmarking

The British practice of Hallmarking began in 1300, when Edward II passed a law requiring all wrought silver items to be tested for purity and marked with the Leopard's Head Crowned. The practice developed over the following century and a half until, by 1544, a number of marks were being applied which together revealed the date an item was made, who made it, where it was assayed (tested for puirty) and the purity of metal used, which was usually Sterling (92.5% silver), represented by the famous sterling silver mark - a Lion Passant. This unique system probably represented the first form of consumer protection worldwide. It is the unbroken continuity of the British hallmarking system coupled with the excellence of the Silversmith, that has meant that British Silver is held in such high regard.

Town Marks

London Leopard's Head

The first hallmark to be used for London was the leopard's head, in the year 1300. In that year Edward II laid down the decree that silver and gold could not be made or sold unless it was marked by the leopard's head also known as the 'Kings Mark' at that time.

The Birmingham Anchor

The mark of an Anchor was adopted as the towns mark when the Birmingham Office was established in 1773, largely due to the great Midland Industrialist, Matthew Boulton. According to some sources, the Birmingham and Sheffield Assay Offices tossed a coin for the marks derived from the sign of the 'Crown and Anchor tavern' in London. Birmingham is now the largest office in Europe.

The Sheffield Rose (formerly Crown)

The Sheffield Assay Office was first opened in Norfolk Street, 1773 due to local Silversmiths resenting the inconvenience of sending their wares to London for hallmarking. They subsequently joined with Birmingham petitioners to ask Parliament for their own Offices. During the nineteenth century, Sheffield became a major manufacturing centre acquiring international reputation for its silver and cutlery.

Edinburgh Castle

The three-towered castle is the ancient hallmark of Scotland and has been regulated by parliament since 1485.

The Dublin Harp

The Dublin Assay Office was established in 1637 originally holding the mark of a Harp crowned. In 1731 the seated figure of Hibernia was introduced to denote that a duty had been paid on the piece and was continually used thereafter to represent the Dublin Assay Office.

Maker's Marks'

Each town or area held a number of registered Silversmiths and they all had their individual marks, which they sometimes changed to reflect changes in their business lives. Certain makers are very sought after and command very high prices, such as Paul Storr, Hester Bateman, Christopher Dresser, and Omar Ramsden.

Date Letters

An alphabet cycle, representing the year the item was hallmarked, was introduced into the Hallmarking system in 1478. Each cycle is differentiated by changing the font style and shield shape.




The International Federation of Art and Antique Dealer Associations