English silver dating
As a consequence the hallmark became a standard of quality and assurance, and the presence of a hallmark on a silver object was an official seal of approval.
English silver, or Sterling silver is often referred to as solid silver, but it does in fact contain 7.5% copper, so it is 92.5% pure, which is why modern silver often has a .925 mark stamped into it. English Silver Hallmarks evolved over time, with the eventual inclusion of the standard or sterling mark, the assay office, the year of manufacture, the maker, and sometimes an additional mark for special reasons.
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Hallmarks on silver were first introduced in the UK in 1300 as a method of proving that the silver object contained the correct amount of silver, since pure silver is a very soft metal and consequently any object made from silver requires some base metal to be added to it to strengthen it.
In these early days it was not uncommon for silver objects to be melted down and converted into coinage, and so it was imperative that the silver used was of a sufficient grade, especially with continental silver containing a much lower percentage of silver. Any piece of silver had to be officially approved to be of a high enough silver content, and would be given it’s hallmark only when this was the case.
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