Victorian London - Publications - Etiquette and Household Advice Manuals - Cassells Household Guide, New and Revised Edition (4 Vol.) c.1880s [no date] - Gold and Silver Marks

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Volume 1



MANY articles of gold, and nearly all of silver, and even electro-plate, bear certain marks, some acquaintance with which everybody ought to possess. The marks upon the precious metals are called "hall marks" - probably because, in London, they are put on at the Goldsmiths' Hall. Only one quality of silver is hall-marked, viz., standard silver, in the proportion of eleven ounces and two pennyweights of pure silver and eighteen penny-weights of alloy to every twelve ounces troy weight. With gold, the case is different, and a person may purchase hall-marked gold of many values from about eighty shillings per ounce, although gold worth less than about one pound eleven shillings and sixpence per ounce is very seldom marked. In 1869 the Goldsmiths' Company in London discontinued marking gold chains of inferior quality; and gold watch cases must be of eighteen carat gold. Some foreign watches marked as eighteen carat gold, have the cases in part made of silver or other inferior metal. In England also, sometimes, rings marked as gold of superior quality are partly of inferior gold. This is the result of fraud unprincipled makers sometimes taking rings to be hall-marked, after which they cut out the portion marked and insert it in rings of lower value. This is also done with silver, but to a less extent. Assuming that articles bearing the hall marks of the United Kingdom are what they profess to be, we will describe those marks. They are of five sorts, as follow:-
     1. The hall mark proper, denoting the place where the articles were stamped. For Birmingham there is an anchor; for London, a leopard's head; for Chester, a dagger and three wheat sheaves; for Sheffield, a crown; for York, five lions' heads and a cross; for Newcastle-on-Tyne, three castles; for Exeter, a castle with three towers; for Edinburgh, a castle and lion; for Glasgow, a tree and a fish with a ring in its mouth; for Dublin, a figure of Hibernia.
    2. The duty mark, which is the head of the reigning monarch, and shows that duty has been paid.
    3. The standard mark is, for England, a lion passant; for Edinburgh, a thistle; for Glasgow, a lion rampant; for Ireland, a crowned harp. Gold is also marked with figures, as 22 for gold of twenty-two carats, 18 for gold of eighteen carats, 9 for gold of nine carats; and these figures are the only guide the purchaser has to the quality of the metal.
    4. The maker's mark is the initials of the maker in common capital letters.
    5. The date mark, which varies yearly, and shows when the stamps were impressed. By this mark, therefore, the age of an article can be ascertained. It will be sufficient to give the explanations of the date marks of the Goldsmiths' Company for two hundred years. 1656 to 1675, old English capitals; 1676 to 1695, small Roman letters; 1696 to 1715, the court alphabet ; 1716 to 1735, Roman capitals ; 1736 to 1755, small Roman letters ; 1756 to 1775, old English capitals; 1776 to 1795, small Roman letters; 1796 to 1815, Roman capitals; 1816to 1835, small Roman letters; 1836 to 1855, old English capitals ; 1856 to 1875, old English small letters. The head of the sovereign will aid in explaining the dates.
    Inasmuch as many articles of jewellery go into the market without any of the above marks, the public have no guarantee beyond the word of the dealer. Under the circumstances, it is desirable that people should take the advice of a leading manufacturer, who says they ought -1., to learn the various qualities and prices of gold; 2, Inquire at time of purchase what quality of gold they are buying; 3, have the quality plainly stated on an invoice; and 4, pay in proportion to quality.

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