What is Hallmark?

Silverware made in England always contains a small stamp called a hallmark.
Pocket watches are also engraved on the silver case of British watches.

Some European silver products are stamped with hallmarks, which prove the purity of the product.
The British Hallmark system was legalized from the time of Edward I in the 14th century, and silver products were obliged to meet sterling silver (92.5% purity).
This seems to have become the standard because 100% pure silver is too soft to process.
The remaining 7.5% is copper, etc. In the world of antique silver, it is customary to write "pure silver" if it is sterling silver or higher.

1327 Edward III authorizes the establishment of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, which inspects precious metals (gold, silver and platinum) at its headquarters in London (Goldsmiths' Hall ) and stamps them to certify their purity. It seems that the word "Hallmark" was born from this.
In the 16th century, due to the tight financial situation and the circulation of low-quality silver coins, in 1544 a more robust hallmark system was established, equivalent to the modern one.

In addition to the UK, the hallmark system has been around for a long time in France, Germany, Switzerland, etc., but the hallmark in the UK is classified not only by the purity, but also by the age, place, and manufacturer inspected, and compared to other countries, it is more difficult to treat violators. It is characterized by high credibility because it has been strictly operated including penalties.

How to read hallmarks

How to see the UK Silver Hallmark

A.Maker mark The abbreviation of the manufacturer (workshop) is engraved.
B. Standard mark A mark of purity.
If it is sterling silver (92.5%), it is a mark of a lion facing left, called a lion passant .
Britannia Silver* (95.84%) is the goddess mark.
*There was a time when this was the standard around 1697-1720.
C.Assay Office Assay laboratories (Assay Offices) are located in major cities in the UK, and you can find out which Assay Office has performed the analysis.
Major ones include London (Lion's Face), Birmingham (Ship's Anchor), Sheffield (Crown) and so on.
D.Date Letter Indicates the year of appraisal.
Alphabets are used in different capital letters, typefaces, borders, etc., and are different even in the same year depending on the assay office.
Before 1974, each office had a different update month.
(London in May, Birmingham and Sheffield in June)
E. Duty Mark It is a mark that proves tax payment.
Silverware made between 1784 and 1890 is taxed and stamped with the profile of the king of the time.
However, it may not exactly match the king's reign year.

The size of the hallmarks and the order in which each engraving is arranged vary depending on the size of the silver product and the location of the engraving.
Also, if the teapot has separate parts such as the main body and the lid, each part is stamped with a different hallmark.
Small parts such as Albert Chain links are also stamped, but because the area to be stamped is too small, only the standard mark is stamped, or only the largest part is stamped with the manufacturer's mark.

Silver-plated hallmarks also have engravings, but the rules are not as thorough as those of pure silver hallmarks, so deciphering them is complicated.

How to check hallmarks

How to check hallmarks

Several books have been published that describe hallmark lists.
In particular , "English Silver Hall-Marks" by Judith Banister is said to be the bible of British antique dealers.

You can also check this website .

[Survey procedure]

① First, determine the assay office Date letters for each year differ depending on the assay office

② Next, the alphabet of the date letter is determined.It will be determined from uppercase letters, lowercase letters, typefaces, borders, etc.

If you can distinguish 1 and 2 above, you can judge the year of manufacture. If it is difficult to distinguish the assay office or date letter due to wear, etc.

(3) Examine the presence or absence of a duty mark. If there is a duty mark, it was made in 1784-1890. For men (George III, IV, William IV), it is 1784-1837. For women (Queen Victoria), it is 1838-1890.

④ Check the maker mark You can check the age when you were active by the maker.

⑤ Check the shape of the lion passant No matter how small the parts, if it is a silver product, only the lion passant is attached.The shape of the tail and front legs are slightly different depending on the era, so you can roughly check the era from there.

Silver is a soft metal, so the hallmarks may have faded over time due to wear and tear.
However, even if it is thin, it is fun to check the age, production area, manufacturer, etc. from the characteristics of the slight engraving.

Once you get the hang of it, it will become easier to understand, so please take a look at your silverware.

A product list of the British silver antique of our store is this
A product list of the British silver antique of our store is this