How to Read English Hallmarks

There are plenty of pages on How to Read English Hallmarks on the net, in this article I've tried to take the subject back to basics and start from scratch. Hopefully you might find it useful.

As a quality control measure, hallmarking has proved itself to be a very efficient method of marking hundreds of thousands of items. Once you know what each of the marks represents it is easy to figure out where the object was made, who made it, what year it was made and finally confirm the grade, or silver content of the metal. It is handy to carry around a small pocket guide book if possible.

Many items also include a Makers Mark. There are literaly thousands of these marks that would fill many pages on the site, and many are available on other web sites, so only a few of the more common ones will be shown here for reference. The series of marks you will find on an item can be broken down to simplify identification as in the following table. They work in a progressive sequence to establish the correct date for an item.

How to Read English Hallmarks
Established Stirling Silver Symbol Lion Passant - Stirling Silver Mark
Established the Town or City Mark Lions Head - London Mark
Establish the Date Letter Date Letter - London 1896
Is thee a Duty Mark? Duty Mark - Monarchs Head

These are all the marks you need to effectively date an item of Sterling Silver. You may see other marks that may confuse you, but remember that makers often put their own mark on twice, for instance, or you may see different monarchs heads, lions heads and the same letter mark but on a different background (see below).

Date Mark 1558 Date Mark 1678
1558 1678
Note the similarity in date marks, but note the different stamp backgrounds, this is how you distinguish between the two dates even though the letter is the same font style.

It is easy to see then that identifying silver items and dating them isn't quite as difficult as it would first seem. When you first start out you will need a good reference pocket book, but you can start by learning all the Town or City marks first, then as you become more confident, move on to the other marks.

The table below gives you a good idea of what the most commonly seen City marks are. Use this as a quick reference guide, but be aware that over the years these marks did change a bit - they won't always look exactly like these but should be a very similar design.

Birmingham Hallmark Chester Hallmark Dublin Hallmark Edinburgh Hallmark Exeter Hallmark
Birmingham Chester Dublin Edinburgh Exeter
Glasgow Hallmark Newcastle Hallmark Norwich Hallmark Sheffield Hallmark York Hallmark
Glasgow Newcastle Norwich Sheffield York
These are the most common City marks you are likely to come across when looking at Silver Hallmarks. The design should stay basically the same with a couple of exceptions that you're not likely to come across that often.

Other Pages of Interest

The Ball Pocket Watch Co

The Elgin Pocket Watch Co

The Hamilton Pocket Watch Co

The Hampden Pocket Watch Co

The Illinois Pocket Watch Co

The Ingersoll Watch Company

The Howard Pocket Watch Company

Waltham Pocket Watch

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