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birmingham silver dating marks-77

It has always been difficult to determine the purity of silver in an object by visual means and many countries have tried to establish a system of ensuring that certain standards are kept to protect customers who buy silver objects.

In Britain our system developed about six hundred years ago, when laws were passed to fix the purity of silver in manufactured silver articles to be at least 925 parts of silver in every thousand parts.

This standard became known as Sterling silver and, in order to be struck with a sterling silver mark, any object had to be sent to, and tested by, the wardens of the goldsmiths guild at the London Assay Office.

This system probably represented the first form of consumer protection world wide.

Later, in 1478, a further mark known as the date letter was added.

This date letter changed each year and has proved to be of enormous value giving an accurate guide to the year in which an item was made.As other assay offices were established in different towns and struck their own identifying marks, it rapidly became possible to look at any piece of British silverware and find marks which show standard, town of assay, year of manufacture, and maker.Much of the charm and interest in British silver hallmarks lies in their variety and individuality.However the main object of silver hallmarking was and is to protect the public against fraud.What follows here is a brief overview of silver hallmarks in England, Scotland, and Ireland.It should be used as a guide only, and we recommend using the Bradbury's Book of Hallmarks (ISBN # 0953174123).