What began as an idle Sunday afternoon flip-through of a tattered volume of Concise Household Encyclopaedia edited by J.A. Hammerton (undated, although various online booksellers suggest it was published c. 1930) turned into a journey down an interesting rabbit-hole. You see, I randomly ended up on a page containing an entry about hallmarks on silverware.
I happen to have inherited a Georgian silver cream jug on a square pedestal in the shape known as a Helmet Jug, given that it is reminiscent of the helmets worn by the Life Guards. The jug once belonged to a relative of my father, Margaret Walker, and bears the initial ‘W’ engraved upon it. He was of the opinion that it had been presented to her on her silver wedding anniversary.
My father always reminded me to take care not to polish the hallmarks off or the piece would lose some of its value. With that in mind, I retrieved the jug to have a closer look at the hallmarks stamped on it – which led to visiting various sites on the internet … and this is part of what I discovered several hours later:
The first of these is the Maker’s Mark.
Although my father thought this might be the renowned William Abdy, this RE mark is clearly not his. I haven’t been able to identify who it represents, yet enjoyed seeing the variety of maker’s marks illustrated on the internet.
The next mark to consider is the Lion Passant which indicates not only that this jug was made in England, but that it is sterling silver of .925 purity.
The Crowned Leopard next to that indicates the London Assay Office. This particular mark was used from 1478 to 1822. The ‘m’ would – if I had a chart – identify the date when the silver was assayed.
This next image shows the leopard a little more clearly as a well as the last hallmark, which is the Duty Mark. From pictures seen online, I imagine this blob might represent King George III – placing the date of manufacture anywhere from 1786 to 1821. Based on photographs of very similar looking jugs, I am going to hazard the suggestion of 1795. I would be delighted to receive a more accurate interpretation.
Whatever these hallmarks really represent in terms of fine historical details, they collectively prove that this is an historical item which has been – and still is being – used for a very long time.
Now, if only it could talk!