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 UK Hallmarks and What Is A Hallmark pages 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. 

Who

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.

What

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

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

London marks struck after 1975:

The Assay Office can assist with more recent London hallmarks. Please email registration@assayofficelondon.co.uk 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.