Silver is wonderful isn’t it? Nothing quite makes a festive meal like silverware. Even though some consider it high maintenance, it is so worth it when that beautiful shine comes through.
Silver hallmarking boasts the claim (at least in England) of being the oldest form of consumer protection. The regulation of the goldsmith craft (the term “goldsmith” was formally used without distinction for both goldsmiths and silversmiths) dates back to Medieval times.
As with anything valuable or collectible, fakes are found. It always pays to buy from either a reputable dealer and/or check the items with acid (which can be bought rather inexpensively and can be used for silver, gold and platinum). That said the penalty for faking hallmarks on any precious metal has been severe for centuries in most countries. After all gold and silver since ancient times are in essence the purest form of universal currency.
Knowing and understanding hallmarks and makers marks is really important, both in determining value and age. Take a glance at the candlesticks in the picture, would you have guessed they were French, circa 1738 just from looking at them? Much like with furniture and jewelry, styles constantly come back into fashion or never fell out of fashion like a classic silver goblet. The value and rarity though can vary tremendously.
I was recently asked by a few people only days apart what resources I use to check silver, especially when at a market or fair, and that has been the inspiration for this blog. I personally come across a lot of English, Irish and Scottish silver so I carry a small book called English Silver Hallmarks by Judith Banister. A truly excellent book that is easy to use and can be purchased for about $8. I love silver from the British Isles because it is so specific in its markings, which usually includes a makers mark, silver standard mark, city mark and date mark.Those who need to check up other hallmarks such as American, German or French and/or have smart technology with them when they go picking, here is an excellent reference website: http://www.925-1000.com/. Easy to use and with a truly global reach.
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Dylan of The Gryphon’s Nest