English Silver Marks


The first thing I look for when anyone brings a piece of silver to me is the marks.

The ones above are on a serving spoon. These marks tell me a lot about the spoon. It is sterling silver, made in London by an English silversmith , James Beebe in 1836. How do I know?

First the letters “JB” These give the name of the silversmith . The silversmiths registered their marks with the assay office and can be trace. In this case, James Beebe

Next the lion set in the shape of a shield.  This tells me that the spoon has made the grade for sterling silver – 92.5% silver, the balance copper.   Other countries use other symbols and more popularly the numbers 925 but English silver has been marked in this way – with the lion- since the Middle Ages

Next the leapord’s head . This shows that the spoon was assayed or checked for content in the London assay office which uses the head of the leapord . There are other assay offices in the UK but they use their own symbols- an anchor for Birmingham , a crown for Sheffield and so on.

Next the fancy letter “A . This tells me that the spoon was assayed in 1836. 1837 would have been a fancy letter “B . The letter changes each year and the style of the script every 25 years .Each assay uses it’s own date letter system so hallmarks becomes a unique combination of symbols.

The final mark is the monarch’s head in profile. Here we have William IV . This last mark – known as the duty mark indicates that the tax due on the item has been paid – only rich people could afford silver! The duty mark finished in 1890. Items assayed after that date don’t have a duty mark but will have the other symbols.

Confused? Don’t be. If you have a piece of English silver send me a photo of the marks and I will guide you through …