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The excise duty on gold and silver articles was collected by the assay offices and the mark was struck to show that it had been paid. Special commemorative stamps have been added to the regular silver marks to mark special events.In addition to the four examples shown below, the head of Elizabeth II facing right was used to mark her Golden Jubilee in 2002 and another set in a diamond was used from July 2011 to October 1, 2012, to mark the Diamond Jubilee.The inclusion of initial stamps alongside the hallmarks means that most makers can also be identified.Often makers are celebrated in their own right with some collectors choosing to collect the work of just one workshop or retailer such as Paul Storr, Hester Bateman, Charles Ashbee or Liberty & Co.
Some of these ceased hallmarking as early as the Stuart period (the Norwich assay office identified by a crowned lion passant and a crowned rosette shut in 1701), while others such as Chester (three wheat sheaves and a sword) and Glasgow (a tree, bird, bell and fish) were still operating into the post-war era.
The company or person responsible for sending a silver article for hallmarking has their own unique mark that must be registered with the assay office – a process that has been compulsory since the 14th century.
Specialist publications help explain different makers’ or sponsors’ marks, with Sir Charles Jackson’s , first published in 1905 and revised in 1989, still the most authoritative work on the subject.
Dublin silver is struck with a crowned harp, to which a seated figure of Hibernia was added in 1731.
Sequences of historical marks for the following offices can be viewed through the links below (reproduced courtesy of the British Hallmarking Council).
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However, in 1696, rising concerns over the amount of coinage being melted down and used to make silver items meant that the required fineness was raised to the higher Britannia standard (.958 purity).