ASCAS Association of Small Collectors of Antique Silver ASSOCIATION OF SMALL COLLECTORS OF ANTIQUE SILVER
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article # 141
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by Giovanni Ciceri
 
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BRITISH HALLMARKS - A CYCLE AT A TIME

I will propose in the next months some articles regarding British hallmarks. Each article will be focused on a specific cycle of British hallmarks, not taken in a chronological order, beginning from the London Assay Office.
At the London Assay Office, each series refers to 20 years, starting with the date letter "a" and ending with the date letter "u" or "v". Only twenty letters of the alphabet have been used, excluding: j, v (or u), w, x, y and z. Note that the last letter of each cycle can be an "u" or a "v", but this is probably due to the fact that in the classic Latin language and alphabet there was no difference between "u" and "v". There is only an exception in the 18th century, prior the introduction of the Britannia standard (1696) (note 1 ), when the cycle lasted 19 years and ended with the letter "t". Also the next cycle (from 1697 onward) lasted 19 years, but in this case all the 20 date letters have been used.
Each article will present real hallmarks stuck on wrought silver plate of the current standard (sterling, 925/1000 and/or Britannia, 958.4/1000).
Although the procedure followed from time to time on hallmarking the silver objects is not the scope of these articles, I will present and comment, for the same date letter, different examples of actual hallmarks as found on various items.
Details on the British hallmarking system, including the meaning of each hallmark struck on wrought plate are available at
http://www.argentinglesi.com/marchi-garanziaing.php
while facsimile of British hallmarks can be found at
http://www.silvercollection.it/englishsilverhallmarks.html

DETERMINING THE DATE ON LONDON ASSAY OFFICE MARKS
1776 - 1795 (XVI cycle)

This is the introductory page of the article about London marks of 1776-1795 that will be published in the January 2011 newsletter. Its objective is to prevent mistakes in determining the date marks of the period subject matter of our article.

Small roman letters have been used at the London Assay Office for various cycles of hallmarks other than for the 1776 one: between 1736 and 1755; between 1816 and 1835; between 1896 and 1915. To avoid misunderstanding and wrong attribution, consider that inside some series were used punches of different shape to contain the date letter. This happened in 1736, 1776 and 1896.
In the cycle 1618-1637 a mix of Italic and small roman letter was used and this can result, in a few case, in possible wrong attribution. Whereas it is very unlikely that a small collector can come into contact with items of this age, we cite this fact for information only.

When punches have similar shape (1776 and 1816 cycles) some differences in the full set of hallmarks has to be taken into account (note 4 ). In particular, in the 1816 series the duty mark should be always present, with some exception for small items exempted from duty and (in a very few case as I can register) for detachable parts of particular items like teapot, coffee pot etc. Furthermore, after 1821 the leopard head is not longer crowned and the lion passant is not longer guardant.

Main characteristic of cycles using the same small roman date letters

1736 cycle
London 1736/1737 mark: Thomas Wallis London 1748/1749 mark: Hugh Mills
Thomas Wallis 1736/1737 (left)
Hugh Mills 1748/1749 (right)
The shape of the punches changed during this series with and after date letter "d" (main differences with 1776 cycle explained below)
1776 cycle
London 1776/1777 mark: Richard Rugg II London 1787/1788 mark: Hester Bateman
Richard Rugg II 1776/1777 (left) (main differences with London 1736 cycle explained below)
Hester Bateman 1787/1788 (right)
The cameo duty mark appears with and after date letter "l"
1816 cycle
London 1816/1817 mark: John Edward Terrey London 1827/1828 mark: John Linnit
John Edward Terrey 1816/1817 (left) - John Linnit 1827/1828 (right)
The duty mark should be always present in this cycle (beginning from date letter "a" - see the 1776 mark).
Beginning with the date letter "f" the leopard head is not longer crowned (see London 1787 mark).
The Duty mark (George IV profile) used from 1822 is slightly different from that used before (George III profile)
1896 cycle
London 1896/1897 mark: Horace Woodward & Co London 1908/1909 mark: Samuel Watton Smith and Co
Horace Woodward & Co 1896/1897 (left) - Samuel Watton Smith and Co 1908/1909 (right)
Punches are similar to those of the 1736 series after 1739 (see 1748 mark), but different enough to avoid confusion.
The duty mark is not longer struck
The more common misunderstandings I experienced are between:

1) the date letters for the first four years of the 1736 cycle (note 5 ) and the corresponding date letters for the 1776 cycle.
Although the punch containing the date letter is slightly different for the two cycles, some problem can arise when the hallmarks are partially rubbed. In case of doubt, is necessary to look at the shape and the leopard head punch, which is considerably different on the two series
London 1736/1737
London 1736/1737 mark: Charles Martin London 1776/1777 mark: William Abdy
Charles Martin 1736/1737 (left) - William Abdy 1776/1777 (right)
Date letter for 1736 and 1776 are similar but the punches enclosing the leopard head are different. The 1736 mark has a punch with a pointed shield, while the 1776 mark is enclosed in a plain oblong punch. Furthermore, the punch enclosing the lion passant for 1736 is a rectangle with rounded corners while that for 1776 has a pointed base or, sometimes, is an oval
London 1737/1738
London 1736/1737 mark: Humphrey Payne London 1777/1778 mark: John Schofield
Humphrey Payne 1737/1738 (left) - John Schofield 1777/1778 (right)
Date letters for 1737 and 1777 are similar, but the punches enclosing the leopard head are different. The 1737 mark has a punch with a pointed shield, while the 1777 mark is enclosed in a plain oblong punch. Furthermore the punch enclosing the lion passant for 1737 is a rectangle with rounded corners while that for 1777 has a pointed base or, sometimes, is an oval.
London 1738/1739
London 1738/1739 mark: Humphrey Payne London 1778/1779 mark: John Schofield
Humphrey Payne 1738/1739 (left) - John Schofield 1778/1779 (right)
In this case the date letter for 1738 and 1778 are different. The "c" for 1738 has a pointed top, while the "c" for 1778 has a round top. Also the punches enclosing the leopard head are different. The 1738 mark has a punch with a pointed shield, while the 1778 mark is enclosed in a plain oblong punch. Furthermore, the punch enclosing the lion passant for 1738 is a rectangle with rounded corners, while that for 1778 has a pointed base or, sometimes, is an oval
London 1739/1740
London 1739/1740 mark: Humphrey Payne London 1739/1740 mark: John Tuite

London 1739/1740 mark: Edward Bennett
London 1778/1779 mark: John Schofield London 1778/1779 mark: Stephen Adams I
Humphrey Payne 1739/1740 (top row, left) Date letter punch first variant
John Tuitee 1739/1740 (top row, center) Date letter punch second variant
Edward Bennett 1739/1740 (top row, right)
George Smith II 1779/1780 (bottom row, left)
Stephen Adams I II 1779/1780 (bottom row, right)

The first variant of the date letter for 1739 and date letter for 1779 are similar, while the punches enclosing the leopard head and the lion passant are different. In case of "stressed hallmarks" can be difficult to be distinguished from each other
2) the date letter for 1789 and that for 1809.
Notwithstanding the date letter for 1809 is a capital Roman "O", it is really very difficult to distinguish from the small "o" for 1789. To determine the real date, consider that the small 1789 "o" has a round external shape and an oval internal shape
London 1789/1790
London 1789/1790 mark: William Stroud London London 1809/1810 mark: Thomas Johnson




London 1809/1810 mark: William Eley, William Fearn and William Chawner
William Stroud 1789/1790 (left)
Thomas Johnson 1809/1810 (top right) - William Eley, William Fearn and William Chawner (bottom right)
The "o" for 1789 is round outside and oval inside. The body of the letter has a different thickness at the top and at the base than in the middle part. The "O" for 1810 is slightly oval outside and inside and there is no thickness difference in the body. The other hallmarks are very similar.

Note that in flatware hallmarks, since 1810, the leopard head is struck at 90 with respect to the other marks (see example on bottom right image). In hallmarks struck in this way the date letter "o" is certainly 1810 (while if the lion passant is struck normally, the date letter "o" may be either 1789/1790 or 1809/1810).
3) in case of partially rubbed hallmarks or in presence of "stressed" hallmarks (note 6 ), other evidences should be considered, like the year of registration of the maker mark, the period of activity of the maker or the style and shape of the item. Note that the date letters "s" for 1793 and "u" for 1795 can be easily distinguished from the capitals "S" for 1813 and "U" for 1815
London 1793/1794
London 1793/1794 mark: John Wakelin & Robert Garrard London 1813/1814 mark: John Mewburn (possibly
John Wakelin & Robert Garrard 1793/1794 (left) - John Mewburn (possibly) 1813/1814 (right)
The only difference between the "s" for 1793 and the "S" for 1813 is the little slash cutting at the middle the "s" for 1793. The other hallmarks are very similar
London 1795/1796
London 1795/1796 mark: Thomas Ollivant London 1815/1816 mark: William Bateman I
Thomas Ollivant 1795/1796 (left) - William Bateman I 1815/1816 (right)
The "u" for 1795 and the "U" for 1815 are different enough to avoid confusion. The other hallmarks are very similar, apart, occasionally, the shape of the punch enclosing the duty mark
ENDNOTE
1 - The current silver standard for silverware was the sterling standard (925/1000) since 1300. Between 1696 and 1720 the Britannia standard (958.4/1000) was compulsory. After 1720 sterling standard was re-introduced, but the Britannia standard was not abolished and left as an optional. However, after 1720 a very few number of items have been made in Britannia standard. For more details see http://www.ascasonline.org/articoloAGOSTO86.html

4 - A very comprehensive work about British maker marks is given at the link http://www.silvermakersmarks.co.uk/. It is more correct to refer to a "sponsor mark" rather than a "maker mark", mainly in case of manufacture employing many silversmiths, important retailers or import trade activity.

5 - In 1739 two different punches were used for the date letter "d", the first one can be confused with that of 1779. After 1739 the punch of the date letter or those of the other hallmarks of the two cycles differ considerably.

6 - "Stressed" hallmarks are hallmarks that have different shape than the usual ones, mainly regarding the ratio between highness and wideness. This can happen in case of reshaping of the item after hallmarking or in case of a late embossing.



REFERENCES
Charles J. Jackson, 1964. English Goldsmiths and their marks - A history of the goldsmiths and plate workers of England, Scotland and Ireland. Second Edition, revised. Dover Publications Inc., New York.

Arthur G. Grimwade, 1976. London goldsmiths 1697-1837: Their marks and lives - from the original registers at Goldsmiths' Hall and other sources.

John Culme, 1986. The Directory of Gold & Silversmiths Jewellers & Allied Traders 1838-1914, voll. I e II - Antique Collectors Club. Woodbridge, Suffolk (UK)

Ian Pickford Silver Flatware, 1983. English, Irish & Scottish 1660-1980. Antique Collectors' Club, Woodbridge, Suffolk (UK)
Giovanni Ciceri
- 2010 -
www.argentinglesi.com