London Date Letters
The step by step guide to trace British sterling silver hallmarks. A date letter first appeared on English silver plate in the year as a result of legislation. How to identify and read the marks on English electroplated silver. The absence of an official dating system makes it difficult to date silver plated wares. To date your silver from its hallmark first identify the assay office (e.g. anchor for Birmingham, leopard's head for London, etc.). NOTE: Since 1 January the traditional fineness mark (e.g. lion passant) and the date letter have both been optional. The compulsory components.
Specialist publications are essential for locating and unstanding the meaning of a huge proliferation of different marks and symbols used on Scottish provincial silver. The marks struck for Alexander Cameron of Dundee. Date Letters Although no longer compulsory, British hallmarks typically include a letter to indicate the year when a piece of silver was assayed.
Silver Date Marks
Generally the letter was changed annually until a complete alphabet had been used and then the cycle would begin again with an alteration to the style of letter or its surrounding shield.
For a variety of reasons this practice was not always adhered to and the resulting anomalies can be seen in the tables of marks.
However, the date letter system allows antique plate to be dated more accurately than almost all other antiques. It should be noted that while the date letter has routinely been taken to represent a single year, it was not until that all date letters were changed on January 1.
Until then, assay offices changed punches at different times of the year, so most letters were in fact used across two years. Accordingly, it is increasingly common to see silver catalogued with a two-year date range. Since the inclusion of a date letter has not been compulsory. Makers' Marks The company or person responsible for sending a silver article for hallmarking has their own unique mark that must be registered with the assay office — a process that has been compulsory since the 14th century.
The inclusion of initial stamps alongside the hallmarks means that most makers can also be identified. Fakes Following a successful conclusion to one of the largest cases of its type in years, a serial forger was jailed in for the faking and forging of antique silver makers' marks.
Assay Office's published guide detailing many of the fakes and forgeries Britannia Standard Silver Historically the standard mark for sterling. However, inrising concerns over the amount of coinage being melted down and used to make silver items meant that the required fineness was raised to the higher Britannia standard. The typeface, whether the letter is uppercase or lowercase, and even the shape inside which the letter is stamped, must all be taken together to determine the year.
The city mark no longer indicates the city in which the piece was assayed, or that the item was assayed in the UK. Since July Birmingham Assay Office have been striking Birmingham Hallmarks in Mumbai, India and there are proposals for further offshore marking centres. In March the British Hallmarking Council announced that in future, items assayed and marked offshore must be distinguishable from those assayed in the UK.
An additional mark to indicate that an item was assayed outside the UK is likely to be introduced in Sheffield Assay have a sub-office in Malpensa, Italy. Both pieces also have a Duty Mark Queen Victoria. Each silver maker has his or her own, unique maker's mark. This hallmark is usually a set of initials inside an escutcheon. The Legislative Reform Order LRO which came into law on 8 February also changed the requirements for sponsor marks, allowing logos to be used for the first time, as long as they provide the required traceability.
Irish silver also contains the image of Hibernia.
This mark was introduced inand is still in use today. The series of hallmarks described above are still in use in today. However, there are two silver hallmarks that have been discontinued: Beginning on 1 DecemberBritish law mandated that a duty mark be applied to silver pieces.
This showed that the requisite tax had been paid to the Crown. The duty mark was a profile of the head of the current reigning monarch.
The mark was discontinued in An additional British hallmark that is no longer used is the tally mark, which was the unique mark of a journeyman finishing his apprenticeship. These marks were used as a record of the pieces made by each journeyman so that each could be given proper payment. France[ edit ] The French assay mark for sterling silver is the head of the goddess Minerva.
Silver items with a slightly lower grade of silver, parts per thousand, are marked with the head of Minerva, next to which is a "2".