Four marks are usually stamped on silver: the “hall” (or town) mark, the maker’s mark, the “annual” (or date) and the “standard” (or sterling quality) mark.
The most important hall marks are:
|Britannia||London from1716 to 1719|
|Castle over a lion (passant)||Norwich|
|Crown upside down||Sheffield between 1815 and 1819|
|Half leopard’s head, half fleur-de-lys||York from 1562 to 1631|
|Half rose crowned, half fleur-de-lys||York from 1632 to 1698|
|Cross with five lions||York from 1700|
|Leopard’s head crowned:||London from 1558 to 1706 and 1719 to 1836|
|Leopard’s head uncrowned||London from 1836 to present|
|Three separate castle towers||Newcastle|
|Three-towered castle||Edinburgh or Exeter from the 18th century|
|Three wheatsheaves and a sword||Chester|
|Tree fish and bell||Glasgow|
|X (sometimes crowned)||Exeter before the 18th century|
The standard mark, indicating the quality of the silver was introduced in 1300 when a leopard’s head was used to indicate Sterling quality (92.5% pure silver). From 1478, a crown was added. From 1544, a lion (passant) indicated sterling quality and the leopard became the London town mark. Between 1697 and 1720, a higher standard of purity, called the Britannia standard was introduced. On silver which reached this standard, the town mark was replaced by Britannia and the sterling mark was replaced by a lion’s head. From 1720, the original system was reintroduced but with the Britannia mark sometimes used in place of the sterling mark. From 1843, the letter F was stamped on imported silver which met the British standard.
Marks on silver are often difficult to read and even more difficult to photograph. To get a good rubbing impression:
- Hold a lighted candle under the mark, letting the flame touch the silver. (The silver will not be damaged.) Black soot will stick to the silver. Wait until the mark is completely covered with soot.
- Let the silver cool. Then apply a piece of sticky tape. Slide your finger across the tape, pressing firmly.
- Remove the tape and apply it to a piece of paper.