Dating british silver
Silver has always been alloyed with small amounts of other metals and this has continued through the ages to the modern age, making it very useful for collectors, firstly as an accurate form of dating and history as well as being quite possibly one of the first forms of consumer protection.In 1363 it was decided that one method of identifying the makers of sub-standard work or of maintaining a level of quality control, was to make the Master Goldsmith register a unique mark of his work in the form of initials, symbols or a shield.What might have started out as a George III silver tankard could end up as a nice silver Coffee Pot once a spout and handle have been added.The initial reason for using silver hallmarks was to protect the purchaser, but over the years the marks had been somewhat confusing.If you choose collecting antique silver as your main antique interest, you should make sure you know the general history and the historical periods associated with collectable silver.It’s lighter and slightly less malleable than gold, but unlike gold, silver is prone to tarnishing as it reacts with pollutants in the air.They also made silver ware serving pieces and had a wide catalogue of patterns.Their tea sets and hollowware pieces produced in silver are very valuable as antiques. Two of the most well-known are the Hales Trophy commissioned in 1932 (sometimes called the Blue Riband) though this really refers to the pendant flown by the sailing ship currently holding the record for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic.
This started a practice called duty-dodging, whereby silversmiths avoided paying duty by incorporating pieces of silver bearing antique sliver marks into a new piece of silverware.
Silver products are usually made from an alloy of pure silver and a small proportion of a base metal such as copper to improve strength and durability.
The proportion of pure silver varies according to standards set by different countries, such as the Britannia Standard, the sterling silver standard and the various countries assay marks, which are also known as silver hallmarks.
Ever since silver was discovered it has been fashioned into highly decorative objects and personal objects of great beauty, and these can be of prime interest to the silver collector.
How long this will continue to be the case is anyone’s guess, and as new technologies evolve and new uses are found for precious metals we may just see antique silver and gold becoming less and less affordable.
To get over this problem the Assay office introduced a duty paid hallmark in 1784, in the form of the sovereigns head, which remained until 1890 and covered the reigns of George III, George IV, William IV and Queen Victoria.