THE DUTY MARK
The duty mark indicates that the proper duty was applied to silver pieces when manufactured. A duty mark can be useful for research because it depicts the reigning monarch at the time duty was assessed. The mark was officially discontinued in 1990 with the end of the duty, but it is still important for historical reference on older pieces.
HOW SILVER HALLMARKS ARE APPLIED
Silver hallmarks are said to be struck because of the way they are applied. Markers use a simple hammer and punch that creates a very distinct and sharp image when done properly. However, striking a hallmark can lead to sharp edges and metal spurs, so marking is traditionally done before a piece is polished in preparation for sale. The striking and polishing create a visually stunning image that appears in relief on the piece.
Over the years, a certain amount of patina accumulates in the recessed portions of a mark, giving an already exquisite silver piece even more character. For the buyer or collector who understands the significance of the hallmarks, a well-struck mark that has left a distinct impression makes all the difference in the world. Now you know more about the hallmarks you see on commercially sold silver products.
Thank goodness someone had the foresight hundreds of years ago to start requiring marks in order to verify the quality and authenticity of silver pieces. Today, we revere the hallmarks as a means of both protecting purity and appreciating history.