Online Encyclopedia of Silver Marks, Hallmarks & Makers' Marks
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BRITISH HALLMARKS

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A typical set of antique British silver hallmarks showing (left to right);
1.Standard Mark, 2.City Mark, 3.Date Letter, 4.Duty Mark and 5.Maker's Mark

This set of marks tells us that this piece was made of Sterling, in the city of London, in the year 1789, during the reign of King George III, by the silversmith Thomas Wallis.

{note - British hallmarks come in sets, the rule of thumb is, if you do not have a complete set including:
Standard mark, city mark, date letter and maker's mark [+ a duty mark if 1785-1890], the item is
either from another country or a piece of silverplate with a hallmark-like trademark.
}

Click here for a comparison of British Silverplate Marks to British Sterling Hallmarks.

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Reading & Researching British Hallmarks

There is a logical progression to reading a set of British hallmarks, following this order will save you some time and confusion in your research.

1. Establish that it has one of the Silver Standard Marks, if not it is likely silverplate or from a different country.

2. Locate and identify the City Mark.

3. Note whether it has a sovereign's head Duty Mark - or not. The sovereign's head, or lack thereof, will narrow the date range.

4. Having identified the city mark, click on the link to its date chart and find your Date Letter.

5. Identify the Maker's Mark, they are listed by city and in alphabetical order by the first initial.

 1. SILVER STANDARD MARKS
The Standard mark indicates the purity of the silver.
A - Sterling .925
B - Britannia .958, used exclusively 1697 - 1720, optional afterwards.
C - Sterling .925 for Glasgow
D - Sterling .925 for Edinburgh
E - Sterling .925 for Dublin


(note: photograph to the left illustrates the sterling Lion Passant hallmark as stamped upon an 1817 caddy spoon by Sarah & John William Blake of London.)




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Stuffing Spoon
Thomas Wallis
London, 1789
 2. CITY MARKS (and the most common standard marks found with them)
London, England (1300 - Present)
The crowned leopard's head was used 1478 - 1822, the uncrowned from 1822 - Present.
London Date Letters • 1696 - 1935 & Makers' Marks

Birmingham, England (1773 - Present)
Birmingham Date Letters • 1773 - 1924 & Makers' Marks

Chester, England (1701 - 1962)
Chester Date Letters • 1701 - 1925 & Makers' Marks

Exeter, England (1701 - 1883)
Exeter Date Letters • 1701 - 1883 & Makers' Marks

Newcastle, England (1702 - 1884)
Newcastle Date Letters • 1702 - 1884 & Makers' Marks

Sheffield, England (1773 - Present)
Sheffield Date Letters • 1773 - 1916 & Makers' Marks

York, England (1559 - 1858)
Until 1701 only city mark, date letter and maker's mark.
York Date Letters • 1559 - 1858 & Makers' Marks

Dublin, Ireland (1636 - Present)
Dublin Date Letters • 1700 - 1920 & Makers' Marks
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-
Irish Provincial Makers' Marks

Edinburgh, Scotland (1681 - 1974)
From 1975 to present, a lion rampant mark (same as Glasgow's) has replaced the Thistle as the standard mark.
Edinburgh Date Letters • 1681 - 1931 & Makers' Marks

Glasgow, Scotland (1681 - 1964)
Until 1819 only city mark, date letter and maker's mark.
TABLE OF GLASGOW DATE LETTERS • 1819 - 1896

 3. DUTY MARKS
  In 1784 the duty mark was created to indicate a tax on the item had been paid to the crown. The mark used was a profile portrait of the reigning monarch's head. The use of this mark was abolished in 1890.
  • 1. 1785 (from 12/1/1784) King George III
  • 2. 1786 - 1821 King George III
  • 3. 1822 - 1833 King George IV
  • 4. 1834 - 1837 King William IV
  • 5. 1838 - 1890 Queen Victoria

 4. DATE LETTERS
  The date letter system was introduced in London in 1478 (elsewhere as the hallmarking system evolved). Its purpose was to establish when a piece was presented for assay or testing of the silver content. The mark letter changed annually in May, the cycles of date letters were usually in strings of 20 and each cycle was differentiated by a changing of the font, letter case and shield shape.

 5. MAKER'S MARK
  The enforced use of the maker's mark was instituted in London in 1363. Its purpose was to prevent the forgery of leopard’s head marks upon silver of debased content by providing an indication of the party responsible for the piece. Originally, makers' marks were pictograms, but by the beginning of the 17th Century it had become common practice to use the maker's initials.


   6. IMPORT MARKS
    import marks The required use of import marks to be stamped on foreign made silver was instituted in 1867. A letter "F" in an oval cartouche was stamped alongside the regular hallmarks, the maker's mark being that of the British importing firm (sponsor's mark).
Beginning in 1904 and new system was instituted in which each assay office stamped its own symbol as the import mark, this replaced the town mark. The lion passant mark was replaced by a numerical standard mark. Unchanged were the required date letter and sponsor's mark.
Items bearing British Import marks will sometimes have additional marks from the country of origin, sometimes not.
Examples of British Import Marks


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