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The first silver hallmarking was confined to Goldsmiths’ Hall in London but in time other assay offices were opened.Today there are still offices in Edinburgh, where hallmarking has been regulated since the 15th century, and in Birmingham and Sheffield, where assay offices were established by an Act of Parliament in 1773.However, in 1696, rising concerns over the amount of coinage being melted down and used to make silver items meant that the required fineness was raised to the higher Britannia standard (.958 purity).This measure was continued until 1720 and all silver marked between those two dates bore a lion’s head and the figure of Britannia in place of the lion passant.
Specialist publications are essential for locating and unstanding the meaning of a huge proliferation of different marks and symbols used on Scottish provincial silver.
Following a successful conclusion to one of the largest cases of its type in years, a serial forger was jailed in 2008 for the faking and forging of antique silver makers' marks.
ATG's report of the case Assay Office's published guide detailing many of the fakes and forgeries Historically the standard mark for sterling (.925 purity) silver in Britain has been a lion passant and this will be found on the majority of pieces.
Dublin’s assay office has been operating since the middle of the 17th century and silver is still marked there.
Most British and Irish silver carries a number of stamps indicating not just the standard or purity mark (typically the lion passant) but also the initials of the maker, a date letter and the place of assay.