Silver dating marks
While in the United Kingdom smiths incorporated the hallmarks in the design, sentiment amongst most precious metalsmiths is that they do not want someone to punch stamps on objects they created with great care and hard labour.When it could be avoided, for instance when it was not mandatory, the smiths would choose not to have their items marked.Although the technicalities in this legendary story are most likely based on myth, it does give an early account of fraud with precious metals.Since pre-Roman times gold and silver have been used as currency or as the counter deposit for money and one can imagine that a not so scrupulous person, with little fear of severe punishments, would find a means to tamper with the precious metal.Paying taxes has never been on the priority list of entrepreneurs and some gold and silversmiths in Germany and the Netherlands started stamping marks on their jewelry and silver work that mimicked antique hallmarks.A second factor was the renewed interest in antique artifacts of the applied arts that was kindled by the first World Exhibition in London (1851).
Especially in countries with no governmental assay offices, like the USA, the need for in-shop trained professionals in this field is required to interpret these stamps correctly.
For the neophyte many marks may seem contradictory as they do not fulfill the ideal image as seen in reference books.
It is, for instance, entirely possible for 18th century jewelry to carry both 18th century French as well as 19th century English marks.
By that time the general taste had changed from eclecticism to Art Nouveau and Edwardian.
Thanks to the hallmark research that began in the late 1800s, a good picture of hallmarking practices throughout the ages is now readily available.