Trace a Hallmark


Every Mark Matters

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

Who

Finally the sponsors' mark, which should be unique, indicates the manufacturer. 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 to help you date your object.

What

Once this has been done the standard mark should be used to determine the type of metal using the standard or fineness marks. Be careful, as silver plated objects often have stamps resembling hallmarks. Make sure your marks match the official UK hallmarks.

 

Historic date letters

Example sponsors' marks in differing shield shapes

Townmark - this style leopard appeared 1756 - 1821

Where

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.

 

When

The date letter, if present, should be compared to published tables of that assay office. Prior to 1975 the date letter varied for each assay office. 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

The Goldsmiths’ Company Library can help you identify a wide range of hallmarks. Please email the.library@thegoldsmiths.co.uk or post a clear image showing the marks, with a description of the object.  Appointments by prior arrangement only.