English silver dating marks

It was Edward I who first passed a statute requiring all silver to be of sterling standard – a purity of 925 parts per thousand – ushering in a testing or assay system that has survived for over 700 years.The statute made it the responsibility of the Wardens of the Goldsmiths' Guild to mark all items of sterling standard with a leopard's head stamp.This is a list of American silver marks and solid American silver. Ornate capital letters or the fleur-de-lis were used in France.Other lists include silver-plated wares and pewter. Four or five small pictorial marks usually indicate England as the country of origin. Become familiar with the English king or queen’s head mark as an indication of age. Silver was stamped with a lion for London, a thistle for Edinburgh. A hand indicates Antwerp, a spread eagle Germany or Russia.There was a simple reason for this seemingly Draconian behaviour in that the manufacture of silver and gold was allied to the minting of currency.Sometimes called the Sterling Mark, the lion passant, the mark for Made in England, first appeared on English silver and gold in 1544.

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This is to ensure it is of the required sterling silver standard and, provided it conforms to a standard, a series of symbols are stamped into each part of the item.

The marks on the bottom of a piece of silver can be an indication of the age, maker, and origin of the piece.

A single mark usually indicates that the piece of silver was made in America, although there are some Irish and Scottish pieces with just the maker’s name.

The first hallmarking was confined to Goldsmiths’ Hall in London but in time other assay offices were opened.

Today there are still offices in Edinburgh, where hallmarking has been regulated since the 15th century, and in Birmingham and Sheffield, where assay offices were established by an Act of Parliament in 1773.

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