Dating english silver hallmarks
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.
The main marks in Scotland were for Edinburgh and Glasgow. This is by no means an exhaustive list and we recommend the book Jackson's Silver & Gold Marks (ISBN # 0907462634) for a more detailed analysis.
As time passed, all of these smaller provincial assay offices closed down.
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.
The autonomy of each Assay Office and the piecemeal development of the Law over the centuries led to many peculiarities in the marks and in their application, so in 1973 a new Hallmarking Act was passed that tidied up many of the complexities and anomalies and led to a simplified date letter system.
There is a higher standard called Britannia (95.8 %) which was introduced in 1697 to combat the melting/conversion of silver coinage into silverware.
Although the use of the Britannia silver standard was not compulsory after 1720, it is still an authorized alternative.
It should be used as a guide only, and we recommend using the Bradbury's Book of Hallmarks (ISBN # 0953174123).
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.