Hallmarks, clowns & silver
Updated: Sep 17, 2019
We have all seen the “experts” on the television look at a piece of British silver and proclaim from the hallmark that it was made in Birmingham in 1714 or such like, but just how can they tell and be so knowledgeable?
Well, it is really quite simple, before the filming started, they looked the hallmark up – if a television auctioneer or antiques “expert” can remember all the hallmarks on silver from all the assay offices they should be on the stage, perhaps it could be said that they already are? Who said clown's - not I.
British silver hallmarks were introduced by Edward Longshanks in 1300, he decreed that all silver should be of a quality no less than that of the Crowns and that it should be assayed (tested) and stamped with a leopard’s head.
The Uk has one of the most structured hallmark systems in the world. As most of the silver we now see is from the last two hundred years we look for a lion (body on profile) which proves that it is the correct silver content, a date letter mark, an assay office mark, anchor, leopards head, castle etc and usually a maker’s mark.
Antique dealers would once have carried a pocket hallmark book but as with most things now all the details are available on the internet.
Currently the silver market is in a trough and most large silver pieces of no importance will sell for scrap at auction, our advice is not to sell at auction though due commissions which need to be paid:
Item scrapes at £1600.00
The buyer needs to pay £1250.00 hammer as he has 28% commission to pay.
Seller needs to pay 20% commission of £1250.00 = £250.00.
So, the seller receives £1000.00 for a piece of silver that is worth £1600.00 scrap, that does not seem very fair to me.
We will pay scrap on the days silver fix less 5% so for the £1600.00 we would pay you £1520.00, £520.00 more than you would receive from the auction house.
The auction house would also send a cheque in three weeks that takes a week to clear, we pay cash on the day.
We are nice.