Generally speaking, our perception and undertsanding of life and working conditions in 18th and 19th century (let alone earlier centuries) is completely wrong and idealistic.
There are surviving log books of major and minor silversmiths` guilds; one such log book is kept in a museum in Budapest. It covers a period of several decades of activity of a minor guild in Austria – Hungary (end 18th century to Biedermeier period).Although one can expcect minor differences, it is reasonable to assume the practice elswhere in German speaking areas of central Europe was, more or less, very similar.
What can we learn from the log book ?
1. It was a minor guild of 5 silversmiths who had to join another guild of candle makers because common guild (with candle makers) provided better chances for prosperity.
2. Their meetings were irregular and several silvermiths were always absent; decisions were difficult to be agreed upon and let alone enforced.
3. Town punch was kept with one silvermith and was not readily available to be used by other silvermiths.
4.New silvermiths required admission to township, and after completed apprenticeship the canditate presented a piece of silver or jewelry to guild members for evaluation (kind of exam). They searched for mistakes and for every mistake discovered, the master who guaranteed for the candidate was fined; the money was kept in guild treasury.
5. Poorly struck maker`s marks were fined; meaning, the maker`s mark was more important than town mark.
6. Town authorities classified silvermiths ( Aurifabri) from grade 1 (lowest) to 5 (highst), so properly marked silver with maker`s mark was very important; it guaranteed the status of a silversmiths.
In conclusion, from our perspective everything in regard of marking silver is expected to be immaculate, perfect and legal. In reality, it was far from that; in spite of harsh legislation, if our standards were implemented, most of European population would be serving prison sentences.