English Silver Hallmarks | How the system works

An overview of how to read English Silver Hallmarks.

English Silver Hallmarks, Assay Marks, Date Marks, Maker’s Marks

What are these things?

The term hallmarks has come into general usage to mean the stamps to indicate makers and standards of fineness/purity of the silver .800/.925/.950 etc. For more information about Standards of Fineness see – What is Sterling Silver?

English Silver Hallmarks

Specifically refers to the system showing various marks on a piece of English silver so one can identify:

  • What it is made of
  • Where it was assayed
  • Who made it
  • When it was assayed

The Lion passant is the mark that proves an item meets the Goldsmiths’ Company standard for Sterling – .925.  There are other marks to represent the Britannia Standard (.958), Gold, and Platinum.

English silver hallmarks

The Lion Passant – this lion represents .925 or sterling on English silver.

Assay mark

Mark showing the city in which a piece was tested to ensure it meets that standard for hallmarks.

English silver Hallmarks - London Assay Mark

This is the Leopard’s Head – indicating this piece of silver was assayed in London. Each city has it’s own symbol.

English silver hallmarks dates or date mark

Letter of the alphabet corresponding to a particular year.  Only 20 letters are used, and as each cycle ends a new cycle begins with “A”.  To differentiate cycles different fonts, uppercase and lowercase letters and various cartouches are used.  Each city with an Assay office works on a different cycle.

English silver hallmarks - London 1919

This is the date marks for London, 1919. Each city has it’s own table of dates marks.

English silver makers marks

The initials or other mark that is recorded with the Assay office to identify who made a piece.

English silver hallmarks - Williams

Makers mark for Williams (Birmingham) Ltd.

 

So when it’s all put together this is what a typical set of English sterling silver hallmarks would look like.

English silver hallmarks - Dixon bowl

Here is a complete set of English silver hallmarks.

From left to right they tell us this piece was:

  • Made by: James Dixon & Son
  • City of Assay: Crown = Sheffield
  • Lion Passant = .925
  • Date mark: in Sheffield this b = 1919

For detailed information about each city’s assay mark and the table of dates each city uses – refer to one of the guidebooks suggested here.

Also please note, this page only deals with English marks…not those from Scotland or Ireland.  Just to keep you on your toes those are completely different marks, although adhering to similar principles.