Dating english silver date letters
Silver struck with the half leopard’s head and half fleur de lys of York (closed 1856) and the crowned X or a three-turreted castle of Exeter (closed 1883) can be collectable on account of its rarity and sense of place.Below is list of marks applied by provincial assay offices which have now ceased operating: Chester - closed in 1962 Mark: three wheat sheaves and a sword Exeter - closed in 1883 Marks: a crowned X or a three-turreted castle Glasgow - closed in 1964 Mark: combined tree, bird, bell and fish Newcastle upon Tyne - closed in 1884 Mark: three separated turrets Norwich - closed by 1701 Mark: a crowned lion passant and a crowned rosette York - closed in 1856 Mark: half leopard's head, half fleur de lys and later five lions passant on a cross For many reasons town silversmiths in Ireland and Scotland seldom sent their plate to Edinburgh, Glasgow or Dublin to be assayed.Rarity dictates that Scottish/Irish provincial silver is highly collectable, most obviously in the flatware and hollow wares produced in provincial Ireland and Scotland.In Ireland, silversmiths in Cork, Limerick and beyond simply marked their silver with the word ‘Sterling’ and a maker’s initials.London Hallmarks Birmingham Hallmarks Sheffield Hallmarks Edinburgh Hallmarks Collectors will often place a premium on silver hallmarked in other regional centres which have since closed.Some of these ceased hallmarking as early as the Stuart period (the Norwich assay office identified by a crowned lion passant and a crowned rosette shut in 1701), while others such as Chester (three wheat sheaves and a sword) and Glasgow (a tree, bird, bell and fish) were still operating into the post-war era.Dublin silver is struck with a crowned harp, to which a seated figure of Hibernia was added in 1731.Sequences of historical marks for the following offices can be viewed through the links below (reproduced courtesy of the British Hallmarking Council).
Generally the letter was changed annually until a complete alphabet had been used and then the cycle would begin again with an alteration to the style of letter or its surrounding shield.
The company or person responsible for sending a silver article for hallmarking has their own unique mark that must be registered with the assay office – a process that has been compulsory since the 14th century.
Specialist publications help explain different makers’ or sponsors’ marks, with Sir Charles Jackson’s , first published in 1905 and revised in 1989, still the most authoritative work on the subject.
For a variety of reasons this practice was not always adhered to and the resulting anomalies can be seen in the tables of marks.
However, the date letter system allows antique plate to be dated more accurately than almost all other antiques.