Dating silver plate marks

Hallmarks are applied with a hammer and punch, a process that leaves sharp edges and spurs of metal.Therefore, hallmarking is generally done before the piece goes for its final polishing.Fortunately, with the use of a single reference book, it is possible for even a complete novice to decipher the vast majority.Although there are many books on the market which can be used to help read hallmarks, the standard book of reference, used by dealers and collectors world wide is Bradbury's Book of Hallmarks.This helped to protect the consumer, for if it was determined that the silver object was not actually pure enough to be marked as silver, the culprit could be found and punishment could be meted out.As silver objects made before 1700 are quite rare, I shall restrict my comments to those made after that date.Some of them contain no silver at all, so it’s prudent to understand these terms when investing in antiques or collectibles you believe to be sterling.Also, keep in mind that 92.5 percent silver must be used in an alloy for it to be deemed sterling.

Armed with this book, the process of reading these marks can be split into the 5 simple steps shown below.The hallmark for sterling silver varies from nation to nation, often using distinctive historic symbols, although Dutch and UK Assay offices no longer strike their traditional hallmarks exclusively in their own territories and undertake assay in other countries using marks that are the same as those used domestically.One of the most highly structured hallmarking systems in the world is that of the United Kingdom, (Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland), and Ireland.It is a form of consumer protection, whose origin goes back almost 1000 years.There are so many different hallmarks found on British silver that to know all of them would be impossible.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. It has long been used to fashion serving pieces, decorative items, jewelry, and a host of other goods. Photo Courtesy of Morphy Auctions Silver is considered to be a precious metal and is, in fact, the most plentiful of all metals falling into this category.In 1719 Parliament established the standard for purity for sterling silver and instituted a mark indicating that an item is of sufficient purity to be deemed sterling.That standard means an item is made of 92.5% pure silver.

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