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Silver Dictionary' of A Small Collection of Antique Silver and Objects of vertu, a 1500 pages richly illustrated website offering all you need to know about antique silver, sterling silver, silverplate, Sheffield plate, electroplate silver, silverware, flatware, tea services and tea complements, marks and hallmarks, articles, books, auction catalogs, famous silversmiths (Tiffany, Gorham, Jensen, Elkington), history, oddities ...
The date letters below show the background shape for silver.
The vast majority of English, Scottish and Irish silver produced in the last 500 years is stamped with either 4 or 5 symbols, known as hallmarks.
The prime purpose of these marks is to show that the metal of the item upon which they are stamped is of a certain level of purity.
When Victoria came to the throne in 1837, the mark was replaced with the Queen's head duty mark which always faces left. Go to the appropriate section in Bradburys for the given town.
Only metal of the required standard will be marked.
There are simply too many maker's marks for a pocket guide to include, and so to find the maker one needs to refer to a variety of large reference books.
Most people would need to rely on the dealer or auction room from which the item was bought to identify the maker. with those simple steps, you can quite easily decipher the hallmarks on any piece of British silver made in the last 500 years.
If you can't see any of these 5 marks, the chances are that the item is either not British or is silverplated.
If you can find one of these marks, then you know that the item is British silver and you can move onto stage 2.