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English Silver Hallmarks 1736-1975

The English hallmark system was born in 1300, when King Edward I ordered that every gold or silver item should be tested for fineness by the officers of the Goldsmiths' Guild in  London before it could be offered for sale, and that a mark should be stamped on the piece as a guarantee that this test (or ‘assay’) had been passed.   The design adopted was the ‘Leopard's Head’ as seen below.   In 1363 an additional provision was made that each piece should bear a mark identifying the maker — at first a symbol, but later (from about 1600) two or occasionally more letters.


In 1478 a third mark was added;  a letter of the alphabet to indicate the year in which the piece was assayed   The letters used were twenty in number, running from A to U with J omitted, and the design was changed at the end of each 20-year cycle.   As a result of slight irregularities during the late seventeenth century, the eleventh cycle started in 1716 rather than 1718, and this pattern continued without further change until the system was reorganized in the 1970s.

By this time the original Leopard's Head had lost its identity as a guarantee of fine and had come to be regarded as a specific identifier for the London office (other towns were by now privileged to carry out assays and had their own town marks).   Accordingly, in 1544 the goldsmiths introduced a new mark to denote the purity of the metal;  this was the Lion Passant, a heraldic lion walking to the left.   It showed that the silver was 92.5% pure (sterling standard).

This completes the list of marks commonly found on watches.   In theory, items made between 1784 and 1890 should additionally bear a portrait of the reigning monarch, testifying that a tax on silver in force between those years had been paid;  but after a few years this was generally omitted on small items such as watch-cases.

 London Marks

Image of leopard_crown.gif
Image of leopard_bare.gif
Image of lion_passant.gif
Image of maker.gif
Leopard's Head
(crowned – to 1820)
Leopard's Head
(bare – from 1821)
Lion Passant
(sterling silver)
Maker's Mark
(typical)

NOTE.   Supposedly there was a variation from one series to the next in the shape of the shield or frame which surrounds the letter, as shown in traditional tables of hallmarks.   However, these particularities were not observed in small items, where a neutral type of shield, varying between the forms shown in the first and third alphabets here, was generally used.   Not until the 1876-1895 series was the official shield-shape adhered to in watch-case marks.

 

 

  1736
Image of london1736.gif
 

  1756
Image of london1756.gif
 

  1776
Image of london1776.gif
 

 

 

  1737
Image of london1737.gif
 

  1757
Image of london1757.gif
 

  1777
Image of london1777.gif
 

 

 

  1738
Image of london1738.gif
 

  1758
Image of london1758.gif
 

  1778
Image of london1778.gif
 

 

 

  1739
Image of london1739.gif
 

  1759
Image of london1759.gif
 

  1779
Image of london1779.gif
 

 

 

  1740
Image of london1740.gif
 

  1760
Image of london1760.gif
 

  1780
Image of london1780.gif
 

 

 

  1741
Image of london1741.gif
 

  1761
Image of london1761.gif
 

  1781
Image of london1781.gif
 

 

 

  1742
Image of london1742.gif
 

  1762
Image of london1762.gif
 

  1782
Image of london1782.gif
 

 

 

  1743
Image of london1743.gif
 

  1763
Image of london1763.gif
 

  1783
Image of london1783.gif
 

 

 

  1744
Image of london1744.gif
 

  1764
Image of london1764.gif
 

  1784
Image of london1784.gif
 

 

 

  1745
Image of london1745.gif
 

  1765
Image of london1765.gif
 

  1785
Image of london1785.gif
 

 

 

  1746
Image of london1746.gif
 

  1766
Image of london1766.gif
 

  1786
Image of london1786.gif
 

 

 

  1747
Image of london1747.gif
 

  1767
Image of london1767.gif
 

  1787
Image of london1787.gif
 

 

 

  1748
Image of london1748.gif
 

  1768
Image of london1768.gif
 

  1788
Image of london1788.gif
 

 

 

  1749
Image of london1749.gif
 

  1769
Image of london1769.gif
 

  1789
Image of london1789.gif
 

 

 

  1750
Image of london1750.gif
 

  1770
Image of london1770.gif
 

  1790
Image of london1790.gif
 

 

 

  1751
Image of london1751.gif
 

  1771
Image of london1771.gif
 

  1791
Image of london1791.gif
 

 

 

  1752
Image of london1752.gif
 

  1772
Image of london1772.gif
 

  1792
Image of london1792.gif
 

 

 

  1753
Image of london1753.gif
 

  1773
Image of london1773.gif
 

  1793
Image of london1793.gif
 

 

 

  1754
Image of london1754.gif
 

  1774
Image of london1774.gif
 

  1794
Image of london1794.gif
 

 

 

  1755
Image of london1755.gif
 

  1775
Image of london1775.gif
 

  1795
Image of london1795.gif
 

  1796
Image of london1796.gif
 

  1816
Image of london1776.gif
 

  1836
Image of london1836.gif
 

 

 

  1797
Image of london1797.gif
 

  1817
Image of london1777.gif
 

  1837
Image of london1837.gif
 

 

 

  1798
Image of london1798.gif
 

  1818
Image of london1778.gif
 

  1838
Image of london1838.gif
 

 

 

  1799
Image of london1799.gif
 

  1819
Image of london1779.gif
 

  1839
Image of london1839.gif
 

 

 

  1800
Image of london1800.gif
 

  1820
Image of london1780.gif
 

  1840
Image of london1840.gif
 

 

 

  1801
Image of london1801.gif
 

  1821
Image of london1781.gif
 

  1841
Image of london1841.gif
 

 

 

  1802
Image of london1802.gif
 

  1822
Image of london1782.gif
 

  1842
Image of london1842.gif
 

 

 

  1803
Image of london1803.gif
 

  1823
Image of london1783.gif
 

  1843
Image of london1843.gif
 

 

 

  1804
Image of london1804.gif
 

  1824
Image of london1784.gif
 

  1844
Image of london1844.gif
 

 

 

  1805
Image of london1805.gif
 

  1825
Image of london1785.gif
 

  1845
Image of london1845.gif
 

 

 

  1806
Image of london1806.gif
 

  1826
Image of london1786.gif
 

  1846
Image of london1846.gif
 

 

 

  1807
Image of london1807.gif
 

  1827
Image of london1787.gif
 

  1847
Image of london1847.gif
 

 

 

  1808
Image of london1808.gif
 

  1828
Image of london1788.gif
 

  1848
Image of london1848.gif
 

 

 

  1809
Image of london1809.gif
 

  1829
Image of london1789.gif
 

  1849
Image of london1849.gif
 

 

 

  1810
Image of london1810.gif
 

  1830
Image of london1790.gif
 

  1850
Image of london1850.gif
 

 

 

  1811
Image of london1811.gif
 

  1831
Image of london1791.gif
 

  1851
Image of london1851.gif
 

 

 

  1812
Image of london1812.gif
 

  1832
Image of london1792.gif
 

  1852
Image of london1852.gif
 

 

 

  1813
Image of london1813.gif
 

  1833
Image of london1793.gif
 

  1853
Image of london1853.gif
 

 

 

  1814
Image of london1814.gif
 

  1834
Image of london1794.gif
 

  1854
Image of london1854.gif
 

 

 

  1815
Image of london1815.gif
 

  1835
Image of london1795.gif
 

  1855
Image of london1855.gif
 

 

 

THE 1736, 1776 AND 1816 SERIES
These are very similar, as can be seen above.   One cannot rely on the hallmark alone to date a watch marked with one of these alphabets;  you also need to know something of developments in the design of watches themselves. Here are a few clues
Arcaded dial   Unlikely to be later than about 1780
Lever escapement   Very rare before 1815
Engine-turned case   Rare before 1830
Arabic chapter-ring   Mostly 1790-1810
Flat (rather than convex) dial  After 1800
Subsidiary seconds dial   Very rare before 1800
Note also the change in design of the leopard's head (1821) and the use of the king's head in profile for a few years from 1784.

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