Play Dating, Sheffield
The date letter and the traditional fineness marks are no longer compulsory components of the hallmark. However, we believe that the date letter is a very important component of the hallmark, as it is the easiest way to date an item and research has shown that most of our customers still want to see the traditional fineness mark on the hallmark. Unlike some of the other UK assay offices, we do not charge any extra to apply the two non-compulsory marks. Those only wanting the compulsory marks applied should indicate this on the hallnote. Read more about the other legally recognised marks in the UK, International Convention marks, and Commemorative marks here. Also known as Maker’s Mark. This is the registered mark of the company or person that submitted the article for hallmarking. It is formed of initials of that person or company inside a shield shape. The shield shape varies, and a minimum of two initials must be included. Every one is unique.
SHEFFIELD DATE LETTERS CHART / SILVER HALLMARKS UK
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Hallmarks on British sterling (L-R): Crown signifying city of Sheffield, lion passant, Letter n of a style dating piece to , maker’s insignia for Walker & Hall.
Today there are still offices in Edinburgh, where hallmarking has been regulated since the 15th century, and in Birmingham and Sheffield, where assay offices were established by an Act of Parliament in The leopard’s head silver hallmark, which has been used in various forms as the symbol of the London Assay Office since hallmarking began.
Most British and Irish silver carries a number of stamps indicating not just the standard or purity mark typically the lion passant but also the initials of the maker, a date letter and the place of assay.
Confusing Marks on Sterling Silver and Silver Plate
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The vast majority of English, Scottish and Irish silver produced in the last 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. The metal is tested and marked at special offices, regulated by the government, known as assay offices. Only metal of the required standard will be marked. It is a form of consumer protection, whose origin goes back almost years.
There are so many different hallmarks found on British silver that to know all of them would be impossible.
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A silver object that is to be sold commercially is, in most countries, stamped with one or more silver hallmarks indicating the purity of the silver, the mark of the manufacturer or silversmith, and other optional markings to indicate date of manufacture and additional information about the piece. In some countries, the testing of silver objects and marking of purity is controlled by a national assayer’s office. 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. 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.
How to differentiate between English Sterling Silver, Old Sheffield Plate quite rare, I shall restrict my comments to those made after that date.
Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to continue reading. Please log in, or sign up for a new account to continue reading. For centuries, the town of Sheffield, England, has been synonymous with the art of silver making. Dating back to the 14th century, many craftsmen worked in silver in and around Sheffield. In the mids, silver was fused to copper and called Sheffield plate.
An invention of Thomas Boulsover , Sheffield plate was born by accident. While Boulsover was busy repairing a silver pot, he discovered a process for plating metals together. In , he accidentally fused copper and silver together, which resulted in a very strong metal. The attributes of Sheffield plate include good looks and durability. Sheffield plate is comparatively quite inexpensive when compared to sterling silver.
The stamped marks found on Sheffield plate resemble sterling silver hallmarks showing town marks, makers’ marks and date stamps. In , a law was passed banning the use of hallmarks on pieces made from plate. By the 19th century, Sheffield plate pieces also were produced in Birmingham, England, and other parts of Europe.
Sheffield Silver Overview
The earliest form of silver plating was Sheffield plate, where thin sheets of silver were fused to a layer or core of base metal of copper. Since about a process called electroplating has been used. It is not sterling silver.
Sheffield Date Letters. Click on the letter you want to date or on a date letter cycle (column) in the table below to see a larger view (scroll down for earlier dates).
Sheffield plate , in metalwork , articles made of copper coated with silver by fusion. Sheffield plate was produced as follows. An ingot of copper, slightly alloyed with zinc and lead, was covered on both top and bottom with a sheet of silver and fired. When the silver began to melt, the ingot was removed from the furnace, cooled, and rolled.
The edges of pieces made were rolled over to hide the copper that was visible when the sheet was cut. At first Boulsover produced only buttons, but his former apprentice, Joseph Hancock, later applied the process to other articles. The production of fused plate was not restricted to Sheffield alone. With the introduction of plating by electrolysis in the s, the production of Sheffield plate declined and by the s had all but ceased. This type of metalware, admired for its soft, glowing, gray lustre, was principally used in making utensils and vessels for the preparation, serving, and eating of food.
Design and workmanship were early brought to a very high level. Many of the early pieces were impressed with hallmarks resembling those used on silver—a practice prohibited by an injunction obtained in by London silversmiths. In , however, Sheffield plate makers were again authorized to use marks that bore the name of the maker and a distinctive device.
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In Part I, I gave a brief history of the development of the British silverplating industry in the 18th and 19th centuries. Now I would like to offer some tips on how to determine whether a given object is silver, Old Sheffield Plate or silverplate. In England silver has been marked in some manner since the 12th century when it was first regulated by Parliament. The marks made it possible to trace the maker and the place of manufacture.
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 are quite rare, I shall restrict my comments to those made after that date. In 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
Walker & Hall
Marks on precious metals have been regulated by law since ancient times. From pharaohs, Roman emperors and continuing today, fineness, or standard marks, have been used to guarantee minimum amounts of precious metal in relation to non-precious metal. At least that’s the theory. But while most governments strictly monitor standard marks, very few regulate marks not related to the content of precious metals.
It is perfectly legal, for example, to stamp silver with trademarks or brand names of companies no longer in business or whose trademark is no longer registered.
It is associated with the term “Sheffield plate” which is an older silver along with the date, maker and/or hallmark or purity of the silver item.
See also the definitions page in this guide for additional information on hallmark components. Note at centre of the image at right the four elements of the hallmark. Detailed image of hallmark far right. Locate the assay office. If your item does not have one of the standard fineness marks, either traditional or numerical, then it is probably silver plate or is from another county.
Go no further. The date letter shows the year that assaying was carried out. The date letter example above represents Prior to the date letter varied for every office. After that it became uniform for every city. Since , the date letter has been optional. Most silver and goldsmiths making bespoke pieces will still opt to use the date letter, however for mass produced silver items it saves the importers money to leave it off.
It should have the initials within a shield. The item may also have some commemorative or duty marks.