A false silver hallmark has always been treated with the utmost severity by the law and in the past a silversmith was pilloried for their first offence, where they would be pelted with rotten fruit and vegetables.If they offended again, a limb would be hacked off and, until the 1720’s, the death penalty was the usual sentence meted out to persistent offenders.
You can used theses to determine the date of silver items by determining the similarity of the letters in the chart below and reading of the date of the hallmark.
A simple method I always use is to identify the Assay Office, which you can find by CLICKING HERE and if that mark signifies Birmingham then the letter a starts at the year 1900.
There was a simple reason for this seemingly Draconian behaviour in that the manufacture of silver and gold was allied to the minting of currency.
Therefore, by debasing silver or gold, the offender was undermining the coin of the realm.
These are traditional standard marks that can still be used today. Since 1972 the UK has been a signatory to the international convention on hallmarks.
This means that UK Assay Offices can apply the common control mark which will then be recognised by all member countries in the convention.
Today and for the past few centuries, this stamp or silver hallmark has shown the place and year of manufacture of the assayed silver item, as well as the silversmith who made or sponsored the item.
The laws governing silver hallmarking are very strict and if an item does not comply with a standard the item will not be hallmarked and will probably be destroyed.
Antique silver hallmarks have been used to control the quality of goods made of silver since the 14th century and the organisation that regulates the craft, Goldsmiths Hall, gave the world the term hallmark.