(click on photos to enlarge images)
BRITISH AND IRISH COMMEMORATIVE HALLMARKS
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A number of hallmarks are struck on silverware crafted in Great Britain and Ireland to
certify the fineness of silver (lion passant, crowned leopard head, thistle, lion rampant,
crowned harp), the place and date of hallmarking (Assay Office hallmark and date letter),
the payment of the duty on silver to the Royal Crown (the sovereign head and the Hibernia).
All these hallmarks are or have been compulsory (at least till the turn of last century), with
some exceptions for little items approved from time to time. More detailed information about the
silver and gold hallmarking in Great Britain and Ireland can be found at the following link
Since 1935 a number of hallmarks (usually optional ones) have been approved and struck on
silverware to commemorate some important events such as the sovereign coronation and jubilee,
historical anniversaries, the new millennium, etc.
British and Irish commemorative silver pieces represent a sector of collection very
interesting for their historical implications, mainly related to the British
monarchy. The items bearing commemorative hallmarks are often very fine replicas of ancient and
Commemorative items have obviously been crafted also before 1935 and in this case no dedicated
hallmarks can be found on them.
The following examples refer to commemorative silverware with both no dedicated hallmarks and
bearing commemorative hallmarks
COMMEMORATIVE SILVERWARE WITH SPECIFIC HALLMARKS (IRELAND)
Silver hallmarking in Ireland has been very similar to the British one since 1494. The evolution of
the hallmarking system followed, although at different times, the English and Scottish ones
(introduction of the standard hallmark, maker mark, date letter, and duty mark).
Since 1807 the two systems definitively merged and also in Ireland the duty mark became the
sovereign head, instead of the Hibernia which was then adopted as the symbol of the Assay
Office of Dublin.
After the act of independence (1922) the Irish hallmarking system did not substantially change,
but (apart in the Northern Ireland where the British system was definitively adopted) in the
Republic of Ireland an extra commemorative mark was occasionally struck, different
from those used in the United Kingdom.
In 1966 the Claidheamh Solais ('The Sword of Light') was struck to commemorate the golden
jubilee of the 1916 rising. It was an Irish nationalist newspaper published in the early 20th
century by Conradh na Gaeilge (the Gaelic League), edited from 1903 by Padráig Pearse, an Irish
educationalist and barrister who later became a key figure in the Easter Rising in 1916.
In 1973 the Gleninsheen Collar, based on a ribbed gold collar found in Gleninsheen, Co. Clare from the
Late Bronze Age, 800-600 BC, was struck to commemorate Ireland joining the European Community.
It was found in a crack in a rock. The farmer who found it thought it was the
handle of a recently made coffin. It is now part of the largest collection in Europe of Ancient
Gold objects displayed at the National Museum of Ireland
(see a contemporary gold replica).
In 1987 the “Coat of Arms” of the Goldsmiths Company was struck to commemorate the 350th
anniversary of the Goldsmiths Company of Dublin.
In 1988 the three castles (taken from the coat of arms of the City of Dublin) was struck to
mark the millennium of the city of Dublin
From June 1999 to December 2000 the so-called M2 symbol, representing the transition to the new
millennium was introduced to celebrate the new millennium.
The table at the bottom of the page shows, in chronological order, the commemorative hallmarks used in
Ireland after the act of independence dating 1922.
All the reported commemorative marks have been drawn from samples found on-line. For a couple
of them it was not possible to find real samples (this is a little known collecting niche).
For these hallmarks a reconstruction was made by the author of this article
on the basis of facsimiles reported by Ian Pickford, 1991. Pocket Edition Jackson's Hallmarks:
English, Scottish, Irish Silver and Gold Marks from 1300 to Present Day. Antiques Collector's
Club, Woodbridge, Suffolk (UK).