There has been quality control of goods made of this metal since the end of the 12th century.The organisation that regulates the craft, Goldsmiths Hall, has given England and the world the term “hallmark”.
Occasionally in later periods the monarchs head has been used to commemmorate special years such as coronations or jubilees.The Date Letter - This mark varies depending on the Assay Mark and shows the year the item was assayed.All of these silver hallmarks can help in identifying exactly when and by who any piece was made, which is not only helpful to collectors of antique silver, but also offers a fascinating dimension to any old silver object that you may possess.British Silver Hallmarks were brought into use in the year 1327.Hallmarks on silver were first introduced in the UK in 1300 as a method of proving that the silver object contained the correct amount of silver, since pure silver is a very soft metal and consequently any object made from silver requires some base metal to be added to it to strengthen it.
In these early days it was not uncommon for silver objects to be melted down and converted into coinage, and so it was imperative that the silver used was of a sufficient grade, especially with continental silver containing a much lower percentage of silver. Any piece of silver had to be officially approved to be of a high enough silver content, and would be given it’s hallmark only when this was the case.Today, and for the last several centuries, these show its quality, the place and year of manufacture, as well as who made or sponsored the item.With the help of a pocket-sized hallmark book and a little bit of explanation from an expert you can ”break the code”.Anchor for Birmingham The Birmingham Assay Office opened in 1773 which lead to the city quickly growing in importance as a centre for silversmithing. The marking of silver became regulated in the late 17th Century.The city arms for Chester was a sword between three wheatsheaves and this was used to denote the Assay Mark for Chester.Its goldsmiths were given precedence over those of other guilds in the provinces.