What is in a hallmark?
The UK has had laws relating to the compulsory, independent hallmarking of Silver products for over 700 years. These laws have an impact on anyone selling products within the UK. Currently products made from silver have to be independently tested and hallmarked before being described as such unless they are exempt from hallmarking if the piece weighs less than the exemption weight, which for silver is 7.78 grams. Hallmarks not only guarantee the authenticity of the purity of British silver but also provide information about its place and date of manufacture and the identity of its maker. Typically, pieces are stamped with four hallmarks.
These marks are:
- The sterling mark: Introduced by Edward II in 1300 as proof that a piece had been tested by an assay office and met the minimum silver requirement of sterling silver, 92.5%.The main assay offices of London, Birmingham and Sheffield use the symbol of a lion passant (a walking lion with right foot raised).
- The maker’s mark: This identifies the maker or manufacturer who made the piece – in this case “WMM”
- The assay-office mark: Shows which assay office has authenticated the purity of the piece. WMM jewellery is guaranteed by the Birmingham Office – an anchor.
- A date mark: A letter of the alphabet is used to denote the year in which the piece was made. These differ between assay offices but those from the Birmingham assay are: 2016 = r, 2017 = s, 2018 = t