The vast majority of English, Scottish and Irish silver produced in the last 500 years is stamped with either 4 or 5 symbols, known as hallmarks.The prime purpose of these marks is to show that the metal of the item upon which they are stamped is of a certain level of purity.
It is a form of consumer protection, whose origin goes back almost 1000 years.
There are so many different hallmarks found on British silver that to know all of them would be impossible.
Fortunately, with the use of a single reference book, it is possible for even a complete novice to decipher the vast majority.
Although there are many books on the market which can be used to help read hallmarks, the standard book of reference, used by dealers and collectors world wide is Bradbury's Book of Hallmarks.
This pocket sized reference contains all of the marks that one is likely to encounter on a regular basis.
Armed with this book, the process of reading these marks can be split into the 5 simple steps shown below.
Bradbury's book of hallmarks was last published in 2009 by the Sheffield Assay office, and so it is easy to get hold of from any major book seller.
You don’t need to memorise these marks because they are in Bradburys book of hallmarks.
Simply flick through the book, looking at the top of the tables of marks to remind yourself if you forget.