Creating handcrafted pieces in precious metals requires varying initial processes. We use precious metals not in their purest form but blend with varying other types of metals to create colour, strength and affordability. As these metals are mixed and adjusted, hallmarking by an assaying office becomes vital in determining that the percentage of platinum, palladium, gold or silver etc. is current within the piece being offered for sale.
Images below shows five typical assay marks stamped on an item made from sterling silver, although not all marks are compulsory as mentioned later in this article. The marks for sterling silver consists of the following in order; London Assay Office, Lion Passant, 925 Sterling Silver, Date Letter and Makers Sponsor's Mark.
There are five remaining assay offices left in England and Ireland, these are London, Birmingham, Sheffield, Edinburgh and Dublin. Our Tarvier sponsor's mark "CRA" is registered with London Assay Office. This hallmark is struck or lasered on all our handmade work submitted to London Assay Office for testing and hallmarking.
Every assay office has or had their own unique hallmark to represent their office. Hallmarks below show the current open assay office hallmarks and their unique stamp profiles that are marked on precious metals. This is a compulsory mark will be found on all submitted articles that meet the testing guidelines. All our handmade work is submitted to London assay office and carry's the profile of the leopards head.
London, Birmingham, Sheffield, Edinburgh & Dublin Assay Office Hallmarks'
Hallmarking by a registered assay office of precious metals such as silver, gold, palladium & platinum is required by UK law when producing an item for sale. The hallmarks stamped or lasered in relation to metal type on an article represent a chemical analysis of the metal composition. The symbol that denotes this is referenced by a pacific shape surrounding a set of numbers. The shape depicting the type of metal, the number clarifying the parts out of 1000 in relation to its purity.
Hallmarks are made up of five individual marks in today's structure. Three marks are compulsory with two an option when submitting your items to be assayed. We generally have all five traditional marks allocated to our work by London assay office.
As a silversmith or jeweller manufacturing articles for sale, we have to have our work tested by law. Our registered assay office is London, the Goldsmiths' Company. To identify our work we have our personal initial stamp that is struck alongside the purity marks. The initial mark that represents our work is "CRA" This initials are also encased in a shield design with a set font style as shown below. Shield designs along with font styles vary to separate makers with the same initials. This process has been the root of the hallmarking system. Because of this process we can identify hallmarks dating back hundreds of years and know who the maker was.
The first introduction in England for purity standards governing gold and silver started back around year 1300. This set standards of metal purity, results of purity had to be equal to or above limits set by the government. If we take silver as an example, silver can be marked as 925. This evaluates to 925 parts out of 1000, pure silver being 1000 parts. 925 is known as Sterling Silver. purity can been seen in a lower value such as 800 or a higher value 958 which is known as Britannia Silver and finally as 999 denoted as Fine Silver.
Date of hallmarking is represented by ordered letters of the alphabet with varying font styles, lower and uppercase, encased with varying shield designs. Part or all of the alphabet is used to distinguish the year of hallmarking. Occasionally a letter is omitted within the order but this is logged as not to confuse the year of hallmarking.
Assay offices use a different year letter to represent the same year. For instance, London assay office used the letter A for 1816, Birmingham used letter S for the same year. Some assay offices had letters in disorder which were rotated differently to determine the year. The process was and is to create separation in identifying hallmarks. Since the introduction of hallmarking this system has helped date items dating back 700 years.
This is a range of visual optional marks that are applied alongside the purity mark to clarify the precious metal type. In silver three varying symbols tell us the purity of the silver as well as clarifying that the item is silver. Three others tell us that the item is either gold, palladium or platinum. The mark above of the lion passant tells us that the item is made from 925 sterling silver.
Along with the standard marks others can be seen from previous decades and centuries. These include purity assay symbols marks, commemorative assay marks and with silver antiques, duty marks can be found depending on the period in history.
In 1784 the duty mark was created as a punch to show the tax on the item had been paid to the crown, this was portrayed by the assay mark depicting the profile portrait of the reigning monarch's head. The Duty mark was abolished in 1890 during the reign of Queen Victoria.
There was an additional British Hallmark during the 18th Century, the tally mark. This was added so a journeyman could mark how many pieces he had been made under his or her hand, so that when he finished his apprenticeship he or she could be paid correctly.
If you submitted work for assaying during the years of the Queen's Coronation or the Queen's Jubilee, your work would have been marked with a commemorative hallmark.
Below are three commemorative hallmarks from the 20th century, Silver Jubilee hallmarks of 1935 and 1977 with the Queen's Coronation hallmark of 1953.
We recommend Jackson's Hallmarks Pocket Edition book as a good bases for the identification of assay hallmarks. Detailed entries are listed from 1300 to the present day. This will give you a good bases for identifying silver with regards silversmiths, assay offices and dating your silver and gold.
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