Dating silver plate

If you want to learn more about famous British silversmiths then click here (an ongoing project).

The question I hear most often at antiques shows is, How do you know whether something is silver?

People aren't necessarily looking only for sterling; they just want to know what they're buying.

What follows here is a brief overview of silver hallmarks in England, Scotland, and Ireland.

It should be used as a guide only, and we recommend using the Bradbury's Book of Hallmarks (ISBN # 0953174123).

In England silver has been marked in some manner since the 12th century when it was first regulated by Parliament.

The marks made it possible to trace the maker and the place of manufacture.

You can't pore over auction records and price guides to find values for your silver and silver plated antiques if you don't know exactly what you have including where it was produced and who made it.

Easier said than done when some symbols on antique and collectible silver can be thoroughly confusing without resources to point you in the right direction.

This helped to protect the consumer, for if it was determined that the silver object was not actually pure enough to be marked as silver, the culprit could be found and punishment could be meted out.

As silver objects made before 1700 are quite rare, I shall restrict my comments to those made after that date.

In 1719 Parliament established the standard for purity for sterling silver and instituted a mark indicating that an item is of sufficient purity to be deemed sterling.

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