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.

metal_silver_hallmark

The most important hall marks are:

Anchor Birmingham
Britannia London from1716 to 1719
Castle over a lion (passant) Norwich
Crown Sheffield
Crown upside down Sheffield between 1815 and 1819
Crowned harp Dublin
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.
 

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