Silver Hallmarks

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Silver Hallmarks - Chinese
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Silver Hallmarks - Chinese
Silver Hallmarks - United States

Silver Hallmarks - United Kingdom and Ireland

One of the most highly structured hallmarking systems in the world is that of the United Kingdom and Ireland. These two nations have, historically, provided a wealth of information about a piece through their series of applied punches.

* A stamp indicating the purity of the silver is called the assayer's mark. The mark for silver meeting the sterling standard of purity is the Lion Passant, but there have been other variations over the years, most notably the mark indicating Britannia purity.

The Britannia standard was obligatory in Britain between 1697 and 1720 to try to help prevent British sterling silver coins from being melted to make silver plate. It became an optional standard thereafter, and in the United Kingdom and Ireland is now denoted by the millesimal fineness hallmark "958", with the symbol of Britannia being applied optionally.

* The date mark is a letter indicating the exact year in which the piece was made. The typeface, whether the letter is uppercase or lowercase, and even the shape inside which the letter is stamped, must all be taken together to determine the year.

* The city mark is used to indicate the city in which the piece was manufactured. For example, a crown of a certain style indicated the city of Sheffield, while an anchor indicated the city of Birmingham.

* Each silver maker has his (or in some cases, her) own, unique maker's mark. This hallmark is usually a set of initials inside an escutscheon.

These silver hallmarks are still in use in today but two have been discontinued.

* Beginning on December 1, 1784, British law mandated that a duty mark be applied to silver pieces. This showed that the requisite tax had been paid to the Crown. The duty mark was a profile of the head of the current reigning monarch. The mark was discontinued in 1890.

* An additional British hallmark that is no longer used is the tally mark, which was the unique mark of a journeyman finishing his apprenticeship. These marks were used as a record of the pieces made by each journeyman so that each could be given proper payment.

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