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History & Hallmarks
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History and Hallmarks
The Foundation of The Birmingham Assay Office
Birmingham Assay Office Statutory History
The Building, Business and The Trade
Birmingham Assay Office in 21st Century
Current Hallmark Symbols
Convention Marks
Commemorative and Other Marks
Date Letters
Mixed Metals
Silver Collection Public Visits
Access to the Archive and Library

Current Hallmark Symbols

What is a Hallmark?

Until 1998, a Hallmark consisted of four COMPULSORY MARKS.  Since 1998 the date letter has become optional but the other three symbols remain compulsory. The symbols give the following information:

  • who made the article
  • what is its guaranteed standard of fineness
  • the Assay Office at which the article was tested and marked
  • the year in which the article was tested and marked
AB Sponsor
or maker
Assay Office
Sponsor's Mark (formerly known as the Maker's mark)
This shows the person or company responsible for sending the article to the Assay Office. The sponsor may be the manufacturer, retailer, importer, for example.
Standard Marks
These show the standard of fineness - the purity of the precious metal,
in parts per thousand.
The background shape shows the metal (gold).
The figure shows the article consists of 750 parts of gold by weight to 250 parts of other metals - 75% gold. This is equal to 18 carats (18 parts in every 24), the traditional way of describing gold purity.

Current Gold Standards
9 carat
14 carat
18 carat
22 carat
Current Silver Standards
Current Platinum Standards
Current Palladium Standards
palladium - 2010

Assay Office Mark

There are now only four British Assay Offices in existence, but there have been more in the past.


Optional Marks
In addition to the Compulsory Marks a sponsor may wish to incorporate any of the traditional marks which have been struck on British articles over the centuries and which have been recognised throughout the world.
For more information on Optional Hallmarks Click Here

Date Letter
This will tell you in which year the article was tested and marked. To see the full series of date letters for Birmingham Assay Office click here

Commemorative Marks

Special Marks to commemorate significant national  events may also be added if a sponsor chooses. The Millenium Mark to celebrate the year 2000 was very popular and was applied to over 5 million articles of jewellery and silverware. The most recent commemorative mark is to honour the Queens Jubilee in 2012. For more information on Commemorative Marks click Here

Other Marks
Other marks have been used historically for example, the Duty Mark and classic marks such as the figure of Britannia to signify Britannia Silver.

For more information about Commemorative and Other Marks please click here

This symbol does not appear in all hallmarks, but if it does, it will tell you that the item was marked during a year when duty was levied on gold and silver by the Crown. Duty marks will appear on items marked at the Birmingham Assay Office from 1784 until 1890.

Convention Marks & Other Acceptable Hallmarks
As an alternative to the traditional UK Hallmarks articles may be marked with a Convention Hallmark which may have been applied by any one of the countries included in the International Convention on Hallmarking.
Following a ruling by the European Court of Justice, the UK is required to accept other national hallmarks. Under the guidelines of the British Hallmarking Council, those national hallmarks deemed equivalent to UK hallmarks can be seen by clicking here

If you wish to identify an early hallmark, or just learn more about historic hallmarks, please visit our Early Silver Hallmarks Database

Click here to enter