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British Silver Hallmarks

  • British Silver Hallmarks



    The majority of English, Scottish and Irish silver produced in the last 500 years is stamped with either four or five symbols, known as hallmarks. The 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. It is a form of consumer protection, whose origin goes back almost 1000 years.


    Understanding British Silver Hallmarks may seem somewhat complicated but the following information will give you a little guidance when trying to date and assess the quality of your silver item.


    Firstly, look for the silver standard mark

    The five main standard marks are as follows


    The walking lion for all sterling silver made in England

    The standing lion for all sterling silver made in Edinburgh

    The thistle for all sterling silver made in Glasgow

    The crowned harp for all sterling silver made in Dublin

    The image of Britannia for Britannia standard silver

    silver standard mark


    If you cannot see one of these marks on your silver item the chances are it is either not British or silver-plated.


    Secondly, look for the town mark.  This reveals the relevant town of the assay office where the silver was tested and assessed.  There are many different town marks but the images listed below show the more typical and most frequently used.

    town mark for silver


    Thirdly, the duty mark will indicate either a King or Queen depending on who was one the throne at the time of manufacture.  This Symbol together with the rather complex date symbol system will give the year of manufacture.  Dating a piece requires the help of a little specialist hallmark book such as Bradbury’s Book of Hallmarks.

    duty mark for silver


    The image above demonstrates the symbols that show the year of manufacture as 1898.  Each town has an individual symbol for each year.  Be careful when deciphering these codes as the shape that surrounds the letter can vary slightly and the significance of upper and lower case is most certain.  It is important to remember that, for example the letter c may indicate 1898 for London but that rule will not apply to any other town!


    Finally, look for the Maker’s Mark.

    This is usually represented by the initials of the silversmith.

    makers mark for silver


    Visiting antique shops, auctions and junk shops can be enlightening armed with a pocket guide to hallmarks.  You may even find an absolute bargain.

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