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Trace a Hallmark

Every Mark Matters

Hallmarks should answer three important questions: who, what and where. They can also tell you when a piece was hallmarked.

Read the What is a Hallmark? as an introduction to guide you in your scrutiny and tracing of hallmarks. Remember a hallmark:

  • Consists of a series of marks applied to articles of the precious metals platinum, gold, palladium and silver
  • Means that the article has been independently tested
  • Guarantees that it conforms to all legal standards of purity (fineness)
  • Guarantees provenance by telling us, as a minimum legal requirement, where the piece was hallmarked, what the article is made from, and who sent the article for hallmarking. 


The sponsors' mark indicates either the manufacturer or person who sent the article for hallmarking. Most sponsors' marks take the form of initials surrounded by a shield design – this is important, as many different sponsors may have the same initials. Other hallmarks, like commemorative or duty marks, can also provide clues which help you date your object.


The metal-standard marks are used to show the type and fineness of metal. (Be careful when looking at plated articles as they often have stamps resembling hallmarks. Make sure your marks match the official UK hallmarks.)


Example sponsors' marks in differing shield shapes

Historic date letters

Townmark - this style leopard appeared 1756 - 1821


The most important point in identifying UK hallmarks is to find the assay town mark. This tells you where the object was hallmarked. There are four assay offices still in operation in the UK: London, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Sheffield. The Goldsmiths' Company Assay Office is the London hallmark - our town mark is the leopard's head.  



The date letter, if present, should be compared to published tables of that assay office. It is a letter surrounded by a varying shield shape. Prior to 1975 the date letter varied for each assay office before each office adopted the same lettering system. Since 1999 the date letter has been a voluntary mark and therefore will not always be present. However, at London assay office, the mark is still applied as standard unless otherwise requested.

How We Can Help

Historic and other hallmarks:

The Library can offer support for the identification of historic hallmarks struck before 1975. If you would like to ask about a hallmark, please get in touch using the contact form on the Company's website main Library & Archive page and the Library team will reply with a request for images - they must be clear enough for you (and them!) to see the details of the marks. Often, identifying a hallmark relies on the finer details of the marks that have been applied – a written or verbal description will not be enough.

If you would like to research multiple pre-1914 hallmarks, you can arrange a visit to the library to carry out your own research by requesting an appointment through the contact form on the main Library & Archive page. Please note that appointments are by prior arrangement only.

London marks struck after 1975:

The Assay Office can assist with more recent London hallmarks. Please email with a clear image showing the marks, and a description of the object.

Please note that after May 25th and the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulations, we are limited in the information we can share on 20th and 21st Century makers, and it may not be possible to provide an identification in all cases.