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Scottish Silver Hallmarks

Scotland has been marking silver since that of the 15th century. In Medieval Scotland silver was the most important metal used to create highly regarded and powerful items. How Scottish silver hallmarks were created in different towns alone in the early centuries tells us about the time they were created. Silver hallmarks were freely created by both individuals and clans in the middle ages. For cities and towns symbols and emblems were the town’s marks which came apart of the cities coat of arms. Some hallmarks have even been found to link to Scottish legends to which of course Scotland is steeped in.

Types of Hallmarks and Town Marks

Thistle Mark

This mark was used from 1759 until 1974 to mark sterling silver (92.5% fine silver and 7.5% other metals). This was Scotland’s national emblem; the lion rampant replaced this mark from 1975 as the standard mark. As legend has it soldiers could hear invaders approaching as they would be wounded by the thistles on the shore.

Lion Rampant

This mark was used in Glasgow from 1819 until the assay office closed in 1964.This mark is said to symbolize the strength of the Scottish people.

Glasgow Town Mark

The town didn’t have a coat of arms until 1866, a number of symbols and emblems were used before this. These symbols of an oak, bird fish and square all came together to make the town mark and the coat of arms. Again each of the symbols holds its own story, incorporating death to live, a love triangle and a pilgrimage.

The Glasgow office opened in 1819 and was that of one silversmithing company Robert Gray & Son. The town mark is a tree, a fish and a bell. The assay office closed its doors in 1964.

Edinburgh Town Mark

This mark is the three towered castle, this was taken from the coat of arms and used from 1485 to the present day. Castle Rock has been protecting the area since that of c.600 BC. The Edinburgh office is still open today and the only assay office left in Scotland, in fact it’s one of four left in the UK. The history of hallmarking at the Edinburgh Assay office can be traced back to 1457. This was when the Incorporation of Goldsmiths of the City of Edinburgh was established.

scottish silverware
scottish silver hallmarks
scottish hallmarks

Coats of Arms for Cities of Scotland

Aberdeen -Three castles encased in a red and gold emblem with a lion on each side on their hind legs holding the emblem. These castles are said to represent the defensive during the reign of King Robert.

Arbroath -The mark of the portcullis. Said to symbolize strength and stop the upraise of its people.

Conongate –A stags head. Said to be representing an attack that be ford King David I against a stag.

Dundee -Three lilies in a double handled vase which first appeared in 1416. It is said to symbolize St Mary and the flowers are to show purity and strength.

St Andrews -A diagonal cross. This symbol has a few stories behind it; one dating back to Greek methodology the other about the legend of king Ungus fighting the English in the late eighteen century. Never the less this is the national flag of Scotland.

Elgin -The mark depicts St Giles of France who became the patron of Elgin (said to be because of ancient ties between Scotland and France). The mark is the saint protecting himself from behind an arrow. This is said to again come from when the saint was wounded by a huntsman.

Forres -The mark of Nelson’s tower which is at the top of Clunny Hill. The tower was built as a memorial to Admiral Nelson in 1808 in victory over Napoleons fleet in 1805.

Greenock -This was established as a port in 1669 and the mark for the area became an anchor which was to show the importance of shipbuilding in the area.

Inverness The camel of the town represents the eastern trade links for the burgh and was used as early as 1760. Later the coat of arms was changed to a camel and an elephant; however the burgh lost its coat of arms in 1975.

As mentioned earlier these marks all have a story from where they were punched and tell us why the hallmarks were made for that area. Silversmiths used to travel around a lot which is why you may see the initials of silversmiths with different town marks. Up until 1964 there were two assay offices in Scotland, one in Edinburgh and one in Glasgow to which only Edinburgh now remains. It was seldom that silversmiths sent their items of silver to be hallmarked at the Edinburgh or Glasgow offices. Items were only marked with the maker’s initial and with the town the item was crafted in. This was usually done to avoid the duty charge which was re-imposed in 1784. That’s why for up to the period of 1860 there is more town marked plate than there is duty marked silver. Items produced in the 17th century were marked similar to that of other Scottish provincial towns.

Andrew Campbell started trading in antiques during the 1970s. Initially, Andrew lived in the South of England, travelling the country, searching for items of silver to buy. Andrew sold these items at various London markets and antique fairs. Over time, and through selling at a range of venues, Andrew built up a large and diverse customer base from private buyers to national and international trade customers.
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