QUALITY CONTROL FOR SILVER The success of the London Silver Vaults is due to the reputation of English silverware as the finest in the world.
There has been quality control of goods made of this metal since the end of the 12th century.
Provided it conforms to that standard, a series of symbols are stamped on to each separate part of each article.Today, and for the last several centuries, these show its quality, the place and year of manufacture, as well as who made or sponsored the item.Town Marks Currently there are four assay offices in the UK.London is the oldest, using the mark of a crowned leopard’s head from the years 1478 – 1822.The original aim of the system remains unchanged: the protection of the public against fraud and of the trader against unfair competition.
Indeed, hallmarking is one of the oldest forms of consumer protection.
Historic assay offices also existed for some centuries at Exeter, Chester, Newcastle and York but they were all closed by the late C19th.
(Irish silver was assayed in Dublin and stamped with the harp crowned from the mid 1600s.) Additional Marks A number of additional marks have been used, such as the Britannia symbol which was introduced in 1697 and was compulsory until 1720.
With the help of a pocket-sized hallmark book and a little bit of explanation from an expert you can ”break the code”.
It is great fun and also a way of finding a piece that was made in a year or city that might hold particular significance and provide the perfect gift or commemorative item.
Gradually gold came to be marked in the same way as silver.