All of these details enable one to determine date of manufacture. From Bradbury’s Marks Book Lion Passant – indicating sterling silver; Anchor – symbol for Birmingham Assay Office; Queen Victoria’s Head; and then a letter which denotes the year of certification To determine if a piece is Old Sheffield Plate or silverplate there are many clues.
Then there are makers marks, usually only letters which will identify the maker. If you look at a piece of English silver and wonder if it is sterling or if it is plated, it is easy: if it has the Lion Passant, it is sterling; if it does not have the Lion Passant, it is not. If a piece has EPNS (Electroplated Nickel Silver) or EP (Electroplate) marked on it, then it is definitely silverplate.
The lists in these mark books are incomplete at best, but they do provide a starting point which is very helpful.
Many factories changed their mark over time, so it is possible to approximately date a piece by the mark itself. In the case of one manufacturer, Elkington, their pieces were so completely marked that you will know what year the item was made, but this is unusual for silverplaters. 3 Example of Silverplate Marks (left to right)EP: Electroplate J D & S (4 marks): James Dixon & Sons-this mark was used from 1879 onwards Horn symbol: Mark of James Dixon and Sons that was added in 1886 to the JD&S mark.
If you want to learn more about famous British silversmiths then click here (an ongoing project).
If you want to learn more about silver-smithing then click here.
In other instances upon replating the details of the marks are completely lost.
Though it can be quite challenging, it is rewarding to be able to put a maker’s name to a beautiful object and thus locate the object in the overall stream of fine arts design and craftsmanship.This helped to protect the consumer, for if it was determined that the silver object was not actually pure enough to be marked as silver, the culprit could be found and punishment could be meted out.As silver objects made before 1700 are quite rare, I shall restrict my comments to those made after that date.In Part I, I gave a brief history of the development of the British silverplating industry in the 18th and 19th centuries.Now I would like to offer some tips on how to determine whether a given object is silver, Old Sheffield Plate or silverplate.For sterling silver and Old Sheffield Marks:, Guide to Marks of Origin on British and Irish Silver Plate and Old Sheffield Plate Makers’ Marks, by Frederick Bradbury, 1968 is a good source.