What is Hallmark?

British-made silver products always have a small stamp called a hallmark.
As for pocket watches, the silver cases of British watches are also engraved with engravings.

Some European silver products are engraved with hallmarks that prove purity, etc., and are said to date back to the Eastern Roman Empire in the 4th century.
The British hallmark system was legislated from the time of Edward I in the 14th century, and silver products were required to meet sterling silver (92.5% purity).
This seems to have become the standard because 100% pure silver is too soft and difficult to process.
The remaining 7.5% is copper, etc., and in the world of antique silver, it is customary to refer to anything that is sterling silver or higher as "pure silver."

In 1327, King Edward III authorized the establishment of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, which inspected precious metals (gold, silver, and platinum) at its London headquarters (Goldsmiths' Hall ) and stamped them to prove their purity. It seems that the word "Hallmark" was born from this.
In the 16th century, as finances were tight and low-grade silver coins were in circulation, a more robust hallmark system was established in 1544, equivalent to the modern one.

In addition to the UK, hallmark systems have been in place for a long time in France, Germany, Switzerland, etc., but in the UK, hallmarks are classified not only by purity, but also by the year and location of the test, as well as the manufacturer, and are more effective against violators than in other countries. It is characterized by high trust because it has been strictly implemented, including penalties.

How to read hallmarks

How to read the British silver hallmark

A.Maker mark The abbreviation of the manufacturer (workshop) is engraved.
B.Standard mark It is a stamp that indicates purity.
If it is made of sterling silver (92.5%), it is a left-facing lion mark called the Lion Passant .
If it is Britannia Silver* (95.84%), it is the mark of the goddess.
*There was a time when this was the standard from around 1697-1720.
C.Asei Office There are assay offices located in major cities in the UK, and you can find out which assay office the assay was performed at.
The major ones include London (the face of the lion), Birmingham (the ship's anchor), and Sheffield (the crown).
D.Date letter Indicates the year of appraisal.
The alphabet is used in different cases, fonts, borders, etc., and it varies from assay office to assay office even in the same year.
Prior to 1974, each office had a different renewal month.
(London in May, Birmingham and Sheffield in June)
E. Duty mark This mark certifies tax payment.
Silverware made between 1784 and 1890 is taxed and is engraved with the profile of the king at the time.
However, it may not exactly match the year of the king's reign.

The size of the hallmark and the order of each stamp vary depending on the size of the silver product and where it is stamped.
Additionally, if the teapot has separate parts, such as the main body and the lid, each part will be engraved, and if the teapot has been repaired or replaced during the process, different hallmarks may be engraved depending on the part.
Small parts such as the links of Albert chains are also individually engraved, but because the area to be engraved is too small, only the standard mark is engraved, or only the maker's mark is engraved on the largest part.

Silver-plated items also have engravings, but the rules are not as thorough as for sterling silver hallmarks, so deciphering them is more complicated.

How to find hallmarks

How to find hallmarks

Several books have been published that explain the list of hallmarks.
In particular , ``English Silver Hall-Marks'' by Judith Banister is said to be the bible for British antique dealers.

You can also check this website .

[Investigation procedure]

① First, determine the assay office. Annual date letters vary depending on the assay office.

②Next, identify the alphabet of the date letter.Identify it based on uppercase letters, lowercase letters, font, border, etc.

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

③ Check whether there is a duty mark. If there is a duty mark, it is 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 year of operation depending on the maker.

⑤ Check the shape of the lion passant No matter how small the parts are, if it is a silver product, only the lion passant has them.The shapes of the tail and front legs vary slightly depending on the era, so you can find out the approximate era from there.

Since silver is a soft metal, hallmarks may become faded due to wear and tear from years of polishing.
However, even if it is thin, it is fun to find out the age, place of origin, manufacturer, etc. from the slight characteristics of the engraving.

Once you get the hang of it, it becomes easy to understand, so please take a look at your silverware.