Antique Central - General information on
 Antique Silver Hallmarks.

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Antique Silver Hallmarks

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Many pieces of antique silver have originated from all parts of Europe, each country having its own antique silver hallmark and even each antique silver piece having a unique makers mark. So, how is it that an antique collector can distinguish the origin and authenticity of an antique silver piece when there is often great similarity between marks, as well as great diversity in place, time and markers. If the antique collector already knows the country of origin, then it becomes easier to identify the antique silver hallmarks by the silversmith mark. However, if the place of origin is unknown, then the following criteria may be helpful.

In general, antique silver hallmarks with leopard's head or leopard's head erased are from London. Although Chester, England used similar antique silver halmarks, the antique silver pieces from Chester are mostly identifiable as small pieces. Another famous English assay mark is the Lion Passant hallmark and testifies that the piece is at least ninety two and one half percent pure silver. Two of the most renowned English silversmiths are Paul Lamerie, known for his superior quality of work and creation of new forms of decoration, and Matthew Boulton, for his discovery of Sheffield plate.

French antique silver hallmarks can easily be identified by the widely used Fleur De Lis or Crown along with ornate capital letters. The earliest known French  hallmarks date back to the sixth century. France is also the birthplace of the first guild, and issued the first law that required the use of a town hallmark in 1275.

Silver hallmarks characteristic of Scotland or Ireland are the Thistle (Edinburgh), the Harp (Dublin), and the Fish with Tree (Glasgow). 

American silver hallmarks generally carry only one or two marks, particularly identifiable by marks of initials or full names. It is possible, however, that these hallmarks may also be of English, Scottish or Irish origin because English and Irish pieces are often confused by the removal of all marks except the silver hallmarks of the makers. Antique hallmarks that are stamped Sterling, Coin, Dollar, or Standard are most likely American, with a small number of Irish silversmiths also using these hallmarks. The instability of the value of paper money in early America initiated an increasing demand for silver. One of the most famous American pieces carrying the antique silver hallmark of Paul Revere was a punch bowl ordered by the Sons of Liberty inscripted with the community sentiment of the time "Not to Rescind." Although early American silver standards were not regulated, any upstanding silversmith belonged to a silversmith society or guild wherein they had strict regulations among themselves. Most early American antique silver pieces consisted of silverware, tankards, mugs and other drinking utensils. 

For a more thorough look into silver hallmarks, The Book of Old Silver by Seymour B. Wyler is a great source and has an extensive list of antique silver hallmarks for use by collectors in identification.






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