The lion symbolizes British sterling -- and because its appearance has changed through the years, this hallmark alone can help date a piece. Symbols for the city of origin include an anchor for Birmingham and a crown for Sheffield since , a rose. Another mark is the head of the reigning monarch. A letter stamp provides the date of manufacture: Each year is assigned one letter of the alphabet; a new cycle starts with a different font. Until the s, the symbol for the silversmith was often a plant or an animal suggesting the family name. Today, initials are used.
MARK OF ORIGIN - TOWN MARK
American marks weren't enforced as systematically and were therefore never as elaborate. Early coin silver was often marked with the maker's name, and nothing else; sometimes it doesn't show even that. Unmarked objects, of course, present the greatest mystery. Eventually, manufacturers also started using the word coin. With the adoption of the sterling standard after the Civil War, silversmiths continued to stamp their own names on the back, along with the word sterling or the number Some companies used symbols as a commercial logo.
The Gorham company's mark was a row of three emblems: Some American silversmiths mimicked British hallmarks to lend their wares prestige -- rather than to convey specific information. Silver plate has its own codes in the United States and abroad. The maker or company name is usually stamped on the back of the piece along with an indication that it's plated: By industry practice, AA has one-third again as much silver used in the plating as does A1. Like faux hallmarks, the terms "sterling inlaid" and "silver soldered" attempt to improve their status by association, here, with sterling silver.
BIRMINGHAM DATE LETTERS CHART / SILVER HALLMARKS UK
Learning to distinguish plate from sterling and American from European silver is a good starting point. Beyond that, you will have to do your homework; even the experts rely on books. Three volumes cover the most ground for a beginner: It's a good idea to bring a small, cheap jeweler's loupe when you go shopping.
I need one for house sales held early in the morning or for those where the tableware has been relegated to a garage illuminated by a single lightbulb. With silver marks, it's a tiny world, so it's best to come prepared. American Solid Silver Early U. Brown manufactured this sterling piece, as indicated by the name, but the hallmarks that follow are bogus, imitating the English system because of its cachet.
On a spoon handle marked with the maker Crosby, Honnewell, and Morse is the number -- a code for sterling. Nonsterling American Marks A wide range of symbols were used by U.
A1 and AA These discreet markings indicate the number of ounces of pure silver used in the plating: EPNS Electroplated nickel silver, or EPNS, is an alloy of nickel, copper, and zinc that's covered with a layer of pure silver in an electrochemical process. Nickel's resemblance to silver helps disguise any worn spots in the plating.
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Venetian Silver This flatware made of a blend of silver and base metals is solid, not plated, but has a much lower silver content than either sterling or coin; it carries pseudo hallmarks. Treble Plate Three layers of silver plating were applied to a base metal during manufacturing.
Hotel A few big companies, such as Oneida, produced large orders of silver plate for hotels. Silver Soldered This is another slightly cryptic way of saying silver-plated. Sterling Inlaid Advertising itself as sterling, this mark for silver plate is perhaps the most deceptive.
Even some dealers are fooled.
Mystery Marks -- Silver Hallmarks and Makers' Marks
Pictorial Marks The tiny diamond on this Brown and Bros. International Silver Marks vary by country and require considerable research just to determine whether a piece is sterling.
China Early Asian sterling is marked with Asian characters. Maker's Mark This particular set of marks tells us that this item was made of Sterling, in the city of London, in the year , during the reign of King George III, and by the silversmith Thomas Wallis. Establish that it has one of the Silver Standard Marks , if not it is likely silverplate or from a different country. Locate and identify the City Mark. Note whether it has a sovereign's head Duty Mark - or not.
The sovereign's head, or lack thereof, will narrow the date range. Having identified the city mark, click on the link to its date chart and find your Date Letter.
The Language of Silver Marks
Identify the Maker's Mark , they are listed by city and in alphabetical order by the first initial. The mark used was a profile portrait of the reigning monarch's head.
The use of this mark was abolished in Its purpose was to establish when a piece was presented for assay or testing of the silver content. The mark letter changed annually in May, the cycles of date letters were usually in strings of 20 and each cycle was differentiated by a changing of the font, letter case and shield shape. Originally, makers' marks were pictograms, but by the beginning of the 17th Century it had become common practice to use the maker's initials.
A letter "F" in an oval cartouche was stamped alongside the regular hallmarks, the maker's mark being that of the British importing firm sponsor's mark. Beginning in and new system was instituted in which each assay office stamped its own symbol as the import mark, this replaced the town mark.