Irish Assay Offices - Early History
There is something characteristic in early Irish metal work. Records show that goldsmiths were working in Dublin in the thirteenth century although there is no mention of the actual formation of a guild or company until 1498.
It is not unitl 1605 that mention is made of a maker's mark and a town mark on Dublin plate.
Charles I laid down standards in his 1637 charter granted to the goldsmiths of Dublin, that no gold or silver was to be of less fineness than the standard of England.
In 1729 the Irish Parliament enacted that plate should be assayed by the assay master and bear the maker's stamp, the harp crowned, and the date letter.
In 1730, by order of the Commissioners of Excise, a fourth stamp was added, the figure of Hibernia, to denote that the duty had been paid.
Irish Assay Offices
In 1807, during the reign of George III, the sovereign's head was ordered to be placed on all plate as a duty mark. This remained in place until 1890 when the duty was taken off silver.
Up until 1923 the Dublin Assay Office was subjected to the same laws governing silver production in England and Scotland.
The formation of the Irish Free State in 1922 meant that laws were made and governed from Dublin, although the system of hallmarking remained fairly unchanged and the use of the seated figure of Hibernia was retained by the Dublin Assay Office.
The Dublin Assay Office is the only remaining Irish Assay Office in use today.
The city of Cork never had a date letter.
Prior to 1715 the city arms, a ship in full sail between two castles, was used together with the maker's mark; latterly with a heraldic icon.
Later the only mark used at Cork was the maker's initials and the word STERLING (sometimes corrupted to stirling, starling, sterlin, starlin or ster.), or the word DOLLAR; this took the place of the town mark.
The word 'dolllar' alludes to the silver that was used for plate (although sometimes the mark also appears on sterling standard silver), much of it being obtained from melted down Spanish silver dollars.
In the 17th century, the assay office in Limerick marked silver with the fleur de lis.
The provincial assay office in Youghal assayed silver in the 17th century, striking items with the town mark of a single-masted ship.
In the 18th century, a small village near Waterford called New Geneva assayed items, mainly watch cases, using the harp as their mark.
(The village took its name owing to a small company of Geneva watch-makers having settle there).
Clonmel, Waterford, Mullinger, Kinsale, Kilkenny & Drogheda all made plate, which was assayed at Dublin.
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