As mentioned above, the Birmingham hallmark is an anchor. From 1975 onwards, the Birmingham hallmark was amended to be used on platinum and gold; an anchor placed on its side. Since 1999, it has become customary for the anchor to be on its side for gold, platinum, and also silver. If you have a sideways anchor on your silver then you know it is a relatively modern Birmingham creation.
The Birmingham assay office is the largest in the world, and is still a busy office today. Its services extend from hallmarking to valuations and diamond and gemstone certifications.
In many ways, London was the ultimate birthplace of the tradition of hallmarking. The term ‘hallmark’ originates in London in the 1400s, when craftsmen in the city brought their goods to Goldsmith’s Hall for assaying and marking. The original hallmark given was the King’s mark – a leopard’s head. The Goldsmith’s Company – the London assay office’s title – would take the mark for their own in 1544, and to this day it is acknowledged as the mark of the London assay office.
The expertise that has been perfected in London over centuries is still used today, creating peerless excellence and comprehensive hallmarking.
Sheffield’s silver-related claim to fame comes from Thomas Bolsover’s creation of fuse plating. This unique technique of silversmithing became known as Sheffield Plate, and is something that is widely collected today. The hallmark for silver being assayed in Sheffield has changed. From its opening in 1773, the hallmark was a crown. In 1974, however, Sheffield’s mark became the Yorkshire rose. This offers silver owners an opportunity to immediately identify basic eras for their Sheffield silver.
Something unique about the Edinburgh assay office is that – from 1759 to 1874 – Scottish silver and gold bore a thistle hallmark. In 1975, however, this was changed to a rampant lion. No other British assay office has had so many hallmarks, but thanks to the thorough documentation of assay offices, it is still easy enough to identify whether or not your piece has Scottish origins.
Although there has been total refurbishment of the Edinburgh assay office, the quality of the services provided remains excellent and dedicated.