HOW TO READ SILVER HALLMARKS

What are silver hallmarks?

 

Silver hallmarks are made up from four main elements.  The date letter, the town mark, the maker’s or sponsor’s mark and the lion passant.  In the 18th century duty was payable on silver and a duty mark was added which ran from 1784-1890

What do silver hallmarks mean?

 

Silver hallmarks imply that your item of silver tests as a minimum 92.5% pure silver, which is the sterling standard.  They are the earliest form of consumer protection and from 1300 no item of silver was allowed to be sold until it was tested as being sterling silver.

When did silver hallmarks start?

 

The first mark (the crowned Leopard’s head) was introduced in 1300 and was applied by the goldsmiths.  In 1327 the first guild was established and silver was then tested and marked at the guild halls, hence, hallmarks.

How to read silver hallmarks

 

If you have watched out eight part video guide you will already know what all the parts of a hallmark mean (if not you can watch the videos here).  This page will help you put all of that information together so you can read the hallmark and identify where your silver was made, who made it and when it was made.

There is a contact form at the bottom of this page if you would like to get in touch with any questions.  We are also able to help value and sell your silver for you too.  So if you have any silver you would like identified and value please get in touch.

What are silver hallmarks?

 

Silver hallmarks are made up from four main elements.  The date letter, the town mark, the maker’s or sponsor’s mark and the lion passant.  In the 18th century duty was payable on silver and a duty mark was added which ran from 1784-1890

What do silver hallmarks mean?

 

Silver hallmarks imply that your item of silver tests as a minimum 92.5% pure silver, which is the sterling standard.  They are the earliest form of consumer protection and from 1300 no item of silver was allowed to be sold until it was tested as being sterling silver.

When did silver hallmarks start?

 

The first mark (the crowned Leopard’s head) was introduced in 1300 and was applied by the goldsmiths.  In 1327 the first guild was established and silver was then tested and marked at the guild halls, hence, hallmarks.

How to read silver hallmarks

 

If you have watched out eight part video guide you will already know what all the parts of a hallmark mean (if not you can watch the videos here).  This page will help you put all of that information together so you can read the hallmark and identify where your silver was made, who made it and when it was made.

There is a contact form at the bottom of this page if you would like to get in touch with any questions.  We are also able to help value and sell your silver for you too.  So if you have any silver you would like identified and value please get in touch.

How to read a hallmark step 1 – locate the mark

The first step in learning how to read a hallmark is to locate your marks.  If the mark is a little rubbed then you can breath on it (like you would to make condensation appear on a window) and the mark will become a little clearer.

The mark illustrated here is from a silver fork and we shall use it as an example here.  

We will now make the next steps to decipher where the item was made, when it was made and who made it.

silver hallmark

How to read a hallmark step 1 – locate the mark

The first step in learning how to read a hallmark is to locate your marks.  If the mark is a little rubbed then you can breath on it (like you would to make condensation appear on a window) and the mark will become a little clearer.

The mark illustrated here is from a silver fork and we shall use it as an example here.  

We will now make the next steps to decipher where the item was made, when it was made and who made it.

silver hallmark
Here is the standard mark - it is a lion passant.  If your item does not have this mark it is unlikely to be silver.
Here is the standard mark – it is a lion passant. If your item does not have this mark it is unlikely to be silver.

How to read a hallmark step 2 – the standard mark

The standard mark identifies your item as being silver.  The mark for sterling silver is the lion passant or the lion passant guardant.  Both look like a lion in profile.  On earlier pieces of silver the lion is looking toward you, and this is a lion passant guardant.

If your item is Scottish it will have a thistle as the standard mark.

Not all pieces of silver have a standard mark, but this is the exception to the rule.  If your item does not have a standard mark then it is more than likely silver plate.  There are no rules or regulations governing silver plate marks so this guide will not be helpful if your item is silver plate.

How to read a hallmark step 2 – the standard mark

The standard mark identifies your item as being silver.  The mark for sterling silver is the lion passant or the lion passant guardant.  Both look like a lion in profile.  On earlier pieces of silver the lion is looking toward you, and this is a lion passant guardant.

If your item is Scottish it will have a thistle as the standard mark.

Not all pieces of silver have a standard mark, but this is the exception to the rule.  If your item does not have a standard mark then it is more than likely silver plate.  There are no rules or regulations governing silver plate marks so this guide will not be helpful if your item is silver plate.

Here is the standard mark - it is a lion passant.  If your item does not have this mark it is unlikely to be silver.
Here is the standard mark – it is a lion passant. If your item does not have this mark it is unlikely to be silver.

How to read a hallmark step 3 – the town mark

Now you know your item is made of sterling silver you can look for the town mark.  This identifies where your item was made and correct attribution is crucial for the next steps.

You can look up the most common town marks here.

In our example the town mark is in the form of a Leopards head.  This means we will need to turn to the London section in our hallmark guide for the next step.

 

The Leopards head represents the town mark for London.  It does change slightly over the years and it may have a crown if it is pre-1820.
The Leopards head represents the town mark for London. It does change slightly over the years and it may have a crown if it is pre-1820.

How to read a hallmark step 3 – the town mark

Now you know your item is made of sterling silver you can look for the town mark.  This identifies where your item was made and correct attribution is crucial for the next steps.

You can look up the most common town marks here.

In our example the town mark is in the form of a Leopards head.  This means we will need to turn to the London section in our hallmark guide for the next step.

 

The Leopards head represents the town mark for London.  It does change slightly over the years and it may have a crown if it is pre-1820.
The Leopards head represents the town mark for London. It does change slightly over the years and it may have a crown if it is pre-1820.
This is the date letter for London 1859.
This is the date letter for London 1859.

How to read a hallmark step 4 – the date letter

The date letter tells us what year the item was hallmarked in.  In order to read it you will need a hallmark guide (which you can buy here) or you can use an online guide here.

In our example we have clicked to the London pages and have found the corresponding letter:

Note that the shield can vary slightly but the font and shape of the letter is exactly the same

 

How to read a hallmark step 4 – the date letter

The date letter tells us what year the item was hallmarked in.  In order to read it you will need a hallmark guide (which you can buy here) or you can use an online guide here.

In our example we have clicked to the London pages and have found the corresponding letter:

Note that the shield can vary slightly but the font and shape of the letter is exactly the same

 

This is the date letter for London 1859.
This is the date letter for London 1859.

How to read a hallmark step 5 – the maker’s mark

So now we know that our item is made of silver and was assayed in Birmingham in 1859.  Now we can look at the maker’s mark (also known as the sponsor’s mark) to see what company or person made the item.

The easiest way is to use this website.  As with the date letter we need to go to the London pages.  If you go to another town by mistake you can easily miss-read the mark and get the maker entirely wrong.

To correctly identify the maker Henry Holland on our piece of silver we selected the London pages, then the H pages, then the H.H marks, then compared our marks to all of the H.H marks listed.

You need to ensure that the shape of the shield, the font and punctuation of the letters and the dates that the maker was known to work all match up.

This is the maker's mark for Henry Holland (of Holland, Aldwinckle
This is the maker’s mark for Henry Holland (of Holland, Aldwinckle & Slater)

How to read a hallmark step 5 – the maker’s mark

So now we know that our item is made of silver and was assayed in Birmingham in 1859.  Now we can look at the maker’s mark (also known as the sponsor’s mark) to see what company or person made the item.

The easiest way is to use this website.  As with the date letter we need to go to the London pages.  If you go to another town by mistake you can easily miss-read the mark and get the maker entirely wrong.

To correctly identify the maker Henry Holland on our piece of silver we selected the London pages, then the H pages, then the H.H marks, then compared our marks to all of the H.H marks listed.

You need to ensure that the shape of the shield, the font and punctuation of the letters and the dates that the maker was known to work all match up.

This is the maker's mark for Henry Holland (of Holland, Aldwinckle
This is the maker’s mark for Henry Holland (of Holland, Aldwinckle & Slater)
The hallmarks for Henry Holland, London 1859.  If you would like to sell your silver or would like some help identifying your marks use the form below.
The hallmarks for Henry Holland, London 1859. If you would like to sell your silver or would like some help identifying your marks use the form below.

Help and advice identifying your hallmark

 

In just a few minutes we were able to identify that our piece of silver was made in London in 1859 by Henry Holland. 

As long as you follow all of the above steps carefully you will now be able to identify and silver hallmark.

If you want help identifying your silver hallmark then why not use the form below or email us some crisp images of the marks and we will be able to help.

Please make sure the images are clear so we can help you.

We can also provide you with a valuation of your silver and help you sell it to ensure you get the best possible price.

[Sassy_Social_Share] 

Help and advice identifying your hallmark

 

In just a few minutes we were able to identify that our piece of silver was made in London in 1859 by Henry Holland. 

As long as you follow all of the above steps carefully you will now be able to identify and silver hallmark.

If you want help identifying your silver hallmark then why not use the form below or email us some crisp images of the marks and we will be able to help.

Please make sure the images are clear so we can help you.

We can also provide you with a valuation of your silver and help you sell it to ensure you get the best possible price.

[Sassy_Social_Share] 

The hallmarks for Henry Holland, London 1859.  If you would like to sell your silver or would like some help identifying your marks use the form below.
The hallmarks for Henry Holland, London 1859. If you would like to sell your silver or would like some help identifying your marks use the form below.

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Are you looking for a valuation of your silver? If so then we can help.

Email details about your item to [email protected] or call us on 01270 440357

You can also click to send us a text

Alternatively, use the form to send us information about your item and we will reply with a valuation.

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