A few posts ago, I talked about English silver hallmarks, which, to me is a fascinating subject. It is quite simple to date English silver, as long as you can crack the code of the hallmarks, and there are plenty of books and resources to help you with this.
One of the reasons I bought the camera that I currently own is that it had the capability to take pictures of the hallmarks on some silver I had been given. In fact, I took a piece of silver with me to make sure that the camera I bought was capable of taking pictures in such minute detail. The marks are tiny, some less than 1/16th of an inch, so it takes either good eyes or a good camera to be able to decipher them.
Here are some examples. These are four small salt cellars. I knew that they were English silver, because it was in the documents that I got which listed their provenance. These pictures are for the insurance inventory I made, so I marked right on the image what they were.
The marks, starting with the three together, from left to right, are: Lion Passant, which always means England. The next mark looks to be a shield of some sort, but it’s actually a lion’s head without a crown, marking it as dating from after 1821. To further narrow it, the R in the shield marks the date as 1892. The leftmost mark is the maker, which, in this case could be Thomas Ash, indicated by the AS.
In this piece, a silver thistle pin with a rock crystal stone in the center, has a different set of marks.The anchor is for Birmingham. The lion passant, which means on four feet, is next to it, indicating England, and the capital B in shield dates it from 1850. The F.N mark is not listed on the site I use, so further research must be done.
Here are some of the London year marks. As you can see, the backgrounds change, the style of the letters change and the capitalization changes. The website for English Silver Hallmarks is a fascinating place to learn about silver hallmarks over the past several hundred year.