How to decipher the UK silver hallmarks

Sterling silver – a major purchase

The history of British branding began in 1158, when Henry II introduced the 925 silver standard for coins. It was called Sterling Silver. It was so important to the British monetary system that the name “Pound Sterling” (it was a measure of large purchases – 240 silver coins) stuck for 1000 years. It now stands for British currency.

The Assay Office and who sat on it

In the 13th century, six jewelers were appointed to sit in a special place in London and inspect silverware. This was the Assay Office. All silver had to meet the sterling standard. Over the 14th century, the assay mark and the stamp of the craftsman became mandatory. And in the 15th century a law came out that designated 7 cities with assay chambers. Thus the hallmark of Great Britain consists of a designation of the purity of the metal, the city where the item was made and the cipher of the year. To make sense of it, you have to go from one stigma to the next in sequence.

Reading British stamps in order

Silver lion

1. We begin by determining the purity of the metal. You can see in the photo that each branding has a small lion on it. This is an identification of 925 proof silver. This is an assay mark. If there is no such, the item was probably imported into Great Britain.

Anchor and other city stamps

2. The next item is the city branding. There can be ten variations of these (though five remain to date). There is a different pictograph for each city. In our gallery, all the decorations are made in Birmingham, so the anchor is the same everywhere.

Encrypted date

3. Only after the second point can we get to the dating. Because each city has its own year letter cipher table. In English it is called the Date Letter. There are tables on the Internet by which you can determine the year. But first, break down the city.

The most interesting thing is the branding of the master

4. Of course, the branding of the master! Often these are initials, but you can sometimes find something interesting by them, too.

Import stamps

5. Another possible branding, concerns imports. From 1867 to 1904 it was the letter F (Foreign) in an oval cartouche. After that, each city had its own import marking. And if you don’t see a clear city branding, then look into the city import stamps. Perhaps the clue is there!



Jewelry has been a huge passion of mine since my earliest years. Spending a lot of time looking at and studying them, I learned a lot of interesting things. Now I am ready to share this knowledge with you on the pages of my blog about jewelry. Nina

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