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It is common opinion that these marks were used only for small articles, but it is possible to find them on articles of big dimension like coffee pots and cake baskets.
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The fineness of the metal is tested to make sure it meets legal requirements and then it can be stamped with a hallmark.
In addition to the fineness, hallmarks can show where and when an item was hallmarked, and under whose name it was submitted.
The first London silver hallmark to be used was the leopards head, in the year 1300.
In that year, a decree by Edward I laid down that silver or gold could not be made or sold unless it was marked by the leopard’s head or The King’s Mark, as it was then known.
If they offended again, a limb would be hacked off and, until the 1720’s, the death penalty was the usual sentence meted out to persistent offenders.
There was a simple reason for this seemingly Draconian behaviour in that the manufacture of silver and gold was allied to the minting of currency.
But many other names are used for silver plate: EPWM - Electroplate on White Metal, EPC - Electroplate on Copper, Argentium Argentine Plate, Argentum, Ascetic B.
Scottish hallmarks have been regulated by statute since 1457 but the earliest known example dates only from 1556 to 1557.
The Incorporation of Goldsmiths of the City of Edinburgh was thought to be in the 1490’s and the earliest surviving records date from 1525.
Antique silver hallmarks have been used to control the quality of goods made of silver since the 14th century and the organisation that regulates the craft, Goldsmiths Hall, gave the world the term hallmark.
This is to ensure it is of the required sterling silver standard and, provided it conforms to a standard, a series of symbols are stamped into each part of the item.