In this guide you will learn how to read and recognize English sterling silver marks.
Whether you want to be sure you are buying genuine authentic sterling silver or just inform yourself about your piece, sterling silver is quite unique and you will be surprised at how much you can know about your silver.
Silver hallmarks date back to the medieval times and are meant to guarantee the authenticity and purity of the precious metal.
Almost all European countries have a silver marking system but the UK (London, Birmingham, Sheffield, Chester, Dublin, Edinburg, Glasgow) has one of the greatest; it stands out for its well-designed structure as well as organization, and their system has survived for the past 700 years.
There are so many different hallmarks found on British silver and knowing them all by heart is almost impossible.
For convenience, a single guide to Bradbury's Book of Hallmarks has been created, to which everyone can refer to and understand the origin of their silver.
Reading English Sterling Silver Hallmarks
British silver generally has various stamps that not only let us know the purity mark of the silver but also who made the piece, when and where. Sterling silver pieces are thus dated more accurately than most antiques.
We find hallmarks representing the initials of the silversmith, a letter for the date and the place of assay (where the metal was tested).
Look for the following standard marks indicating the city in which the silver was made and hallmarked.
- Walking lion – England
- Standing lion – Glasgow
- Thristle – Edinburgh
- Crowned harp – Dublin
- Image of Britain – Britan standard silver
- Castle – Edinburgh
- Tree, fish, bell, and bird – Glasgow
- Crowned harp – Dublin
- Anchor – Birmingham
- Crown – Sheffield
- Three wheat sheaves and a sword – Chester
- Leopards head crowned for silver hallmarked in London 1820
- Leopards head for silver hallmarked in London 1820
Look For The Date Letter
Until 1999, a letter was generally placed on the silver, one that changed every year and indicates the specific year when the silver piece was assayed.
It is important to note that each city has a different series of letters corresponding to a different year.
London Silver Maker’s Mark
Originally an image was used, but later the creator's name was marked with the first two letters of their surname or their initials. Each silver maker had their own maker’s mark. The auctioneer from whom you are buying can inform you of the name of the manufacturer.
Look For The Duty Mark
The mark is in the form of the king or queen’s head depending on who ruled at the time of production. It was used between 1784 and 1890, when there was a tax on silver and the hallmark was a proof of tax payment.
English Sterling Silver And Commemorative Hallmarks
Special marks were used at important events such as the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 or the silver anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II in 1977 as well as the diamond anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II in 2012.
Those were not mandatory and were placed only at the request of the manufacturer.