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  1. #1

    Default British hallmarks on silver

    In a recent discussion (http://mb.nawcc.org/showthread.php?141837) I bemoaned the fact that I had been unable to find a definitive description of the hallmarking process, particularly as it relates to the stamping of sponsor's marks, by whom and when. This was in the context of sponsor's marks recorded in Priestley at one office being used at a different office, where, apparently, it had not been registered. This raised the question, 'a result of an omission by Priestley, or of the way that sponsor's marks were applied?'.

    Clearly, I hadn't been very diligent in my previous searches, as in relative short time this morning, I found this very useful summary that is freely available on the 'The Silver Society Site' (http://www.thesilversociety.org/index.php). I attach a copy below.

    The interesting paragraph for me is this -

    "4. Sponsor's mark
    Before sending items for hallmarking, a person had to enter their details and a unique punch mark at the
    assay office. The registered punch mark was impressed onto items before they were sent for assay. The
    mark originally indicated the master goldsmith in whose workshop the piece was made (Rebecca Emes and
    Edward Barnard in this example) and became known as the “maker’s mark” although it was never
    intended for the purpose of identifying who actually made the item. The well known eighteenth century
    silversmith Paul de Lamerie subcontracted work to other workshops, although striking the finished wares
    with his own punch, and as trade and manufacturing became more complex, it was recognised that the
    person who sent an item to be hallmarked might not have been involved in its manufacture but might
    instead be a retailer or importer. The person submitting an item took responsibility, one of the meanings
    of the term sponsor, for the fineness of the metal, and bore the penalty if it was found to be substandard,
    so today the term “sponsor’s mark” is used for this mark."

    This is clearest explanation that I have found and I thought it was worth sharing.

    Priestley has documented numerous case makers with concurrent registration marks at all three assay offices, often with relatively small differences in style. This practice would appear to indicate that individual offices required marks to be specifically registered with them and it was not normal practice to accept a mark registered at another office.

    It seems probable to me, that occasionally such makers presented cases for hallmarking with their sponsor's mark as registered at a different office. Perhaps in some cases the case was returned and not assayed, but I have evidence that the scrutiny required was sometimes absent (see http://mb.nawcc.org/showthread.php?134752) and I am sure that some will have slipped through. I think this is the most likely explanation of some, possibly the majority, of the instances that we find.

    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails British silver hallmarks - the Silver Society.pdf  

  2. #2
    Technical Admin Tom McIntyre's Avatar
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    Default Re: British hallmarks on silver (By: John Matthews)

    You certainly could be correct. However, I see nothing in the regulation that requires any unique differences between marks by the same sponsor registered at different assay offices. Did I overlook something?
    Tom McIntyre Click me.
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  3. #3

    Default Re: British hallmarks on silver (By: Tom McIntyre)

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom McIntyre View Post
    You certainly could be correct. However, I see nothing in the regulation that requires any unique differences between marks by the same sponsor registered at different assay offices. Did I overlook something?
    Hi Tom - there was no regulation to prevent the same mark being used at all of the assay offices and indeed there are examples of this recorded in Priestley. However, there are also examples where different marks co-existed for the same sponsor - in some cases for obvious reasons - the preferred mark had already been registered by another maker, in other cases the reason for using different marks is not clear. Later today I will post examples.


  4. #4
    Registered user. roughbarked's Avatar
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    Western NSW, Australia

    Default Re: British hallmarks on silver (By: John Matthews)

    The sponsor's mark is not always present. It can be useful if it is.

  5. #5
    Registered User gmorse's Avatar
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    Default Re: British hallmarks on silver (By: roughbarked)

    Hi roughbarked,

    If the sponsor's mark in English hallmarks is absent from all the marks on a watch case, that's cause for concern and may raise questions about authenticity, because without it the law isn't being observed. Even in very early cases, before 1720 when full hallmarks weren't obligatory, the sponsor's mark is often the only one present. In cases with import hallmarks it can be different, and then some elements are sometimes missing.



    "Ut tensio, sic vis" - Robert Hooke

  6. #6
    Registered user. roughbarked's Avatar
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    Default Re: British hallmarks on silver (By: gmorse)

    Yep. This is what was meant by my few words. Even though I didn't know all the words to put to it. More information right down to who did what, lies beneath the sponsors mark.

    That it isn't there, speaks for itself.

  7. #7

    Default Re: British hallmarks on silver (By: roughbarked)

    I spent time this afternoon browsing the sponsor's marks documented by Priestley. Here are some observations.

    While it is relatively common to find sponsor's who it can be inferred were actively using two of the assay offices concurrently, (by inspection of the sequence of registration dates), those using all three were, not surprisingly, less common. Even when two offices were being used, registration dates can be significantly different. Finding examples when, on a given date, a sponsor had precisely the same mark valid at all three offices, is difficult, but they do exist:-

    (note: the number in brackets defines the shape of the cameo which surrounds the letters, following the convention of Priestley)

    Marks valid on 01/01/1890 for Henry Green of London
    London 09/01/1879 HG (3)
    Birmingham 24/12/1889 HG (3)
    Chester 24/06/1880 HG (3)

    There are other examples where the differences are small:-

    Marks valid on 01/01/1867 for John Harris of Coventry
    London 11/04/1866 I.H (2)
    Birmingham 05/12/1866 I.H (1)
    Chester 20/06/1866 I.H (2)

    In this case, I am uncertain whether the difference is significant. The difference between cameo 1 & 2 can depend upon the distinction between a rectangle with cut or rounded corners. As many of us know, this can be difficult to determine on worn hallmarks. Hopefully this would have been far easier when examining the reference marks recorded at the assay offices. However, given the enormous amount of material that Priestley collated to produce his invaluable reference, a small number of errors are likely to have slipped through; I think it would be unwise to draw conclusions regarding such small differences between the registered marks.

    Here are a selection of marks where it appear to me that there are significant differences and which could lead to the situation I alluded to in the original post.

    Marks valid on 01/01/1885 for Isaac Jabez Theo Newsome
    London 21/11/1884 I.J.T.N (2)
    Birmingham no registered mark at this date
    Chester 07/11/1884 I.J.T.N (2) & I.J.T.N (37)

    In this example, I am unsure why Newsome decided to register two very distinct marks on the same day at Chester, perhaps they were for different product ranges. The two cameos are quite distinct 2 – rectangle with cut corners, 37 – a diamond.

    Marks valid on 01/01/1887 for John Rotherham – Coventry
    London 11/05/1886 JR (1) & JR(2)
    Birmingham 15/07/1886 JR (37) & JR (1)
    Chester no registered mark at this date

    Similarly comments apply for John Rotherham's marks.

    Marks valid on 01/12/1908 for William Ehrhardt – Birmingham
    London 29/07/1892 WE (3) – the only mark registered in London
    Birmingham 20/02/1907 W.E (3)
    Chester 24/02/1906 W.E (2)

    Marks valid on 01/01/1899 for Charles Hutton Errington – Coventry
    London 29/08/1895 C.H.E (3)
    Birmingham 18/08//1898 C.H.E (2)
    Chester 24/12/1898 CHE (1)

    Cameo 3 is elliptical and is usually distinct from the rectangle of cameo 1 & 2.


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