In 1842, the British Customs Act was imposed requiring all imported silver and gold to be submitted for assay at a British office and marked accordingly before being sold in Great Britain or Ireland.
The British Customs Act
There were, however, no defining marks to distinguish silver and gold made in Great Britain from imported assayed examples. Hence, in 1867 the letter ‘F’ set within an oval was struck on imported works of the correct standard to make a clear differentiation. This mark was used up until 1904 after which the whole system was radically reformed in what was called ‘The Hallmarking of Foreign Plate Act’.
The Hallmarking of Foreign Plate Act
This act ordered all foreign silver of the correct standard to be decimal marked .925 for sterling standard silver or .958 for Britannia standard silver. These decimal standard marks replaced the lion passant mark. As well as this addition, each assay office was assigned with their own new town mark to be specially used on imported silver items. Although the current, required date letter was struck, the original makers mark remained unchanged. Occasionally imported assayed silver can be found with both the marks from the country of origin along side the additional British import marks.
More recent changes
Since 1904, the system of import marks has remained the same with only a few alterations in the assay office symbols and a change in the style of numerical punches used from 1975 onwards. The most notable change was in 1906 when the Phoebus ‘Sun’ import assay office mark for London was altered to the sign of the constellation of Leo due to existing trade mark issues.
If you have any silver or gold that you would like to sell or have valued, please contact Robin Newcombe, silver specialist at Grand Auctions, Folkestone, Kent for further details.
- Posted by Robin Newcombe