English Silver

Silver from England
Browse the English Silver Catalogue

The first English mark introduced was the Leopard’s head in 1300, under Edward 1. What’s interesting is that in reality it is a “Lion’s” head. “Leopart” is a heraldic term for lion passant gardant. This mark was used throughout England until it was adopted as the London town mark. Later other English cities were granted Charters to establish guilds and town marks.

The second mark introduced was the Maker’s Mark in 1363; originally it was a type of symbol or sign. By the time of Charles II, letters from the silversmiths name came into use along with symbols.. The Silversmith’s first and last initials came into use over the last two and a half centuries.

In 1477, a date letter was introduced in order to tighten control over the marking system.

The lion passant was introduced in 1544, and today it represents the sterling standard or .925/1000.

A duty or tax mark in the shape of the monarch’s head, was introduced in 1780 and used until 1890.

In 1343 Edward III deemed that all silver should be of the “Easterling” standard, which originated to the east in Germany. This term was later shortened to “Sterling” or .925.  During the reign of Henry VIII in 1542, the silver standard was debased with the silver purity falling like the King’s morals. Finally, under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the sterling standard was restored. During the English Civil War, great quantities of silver coinage were melted, thus creating a crisis. Parliament raised the silver quality to .958—or the Britannia standard—to keep silversmiths from melting sterling coins to make their wares.

The English silver guilds retained strict control over the silversmith’s work, thus guaranteeing artistic merit and the quality of the metal. With many Huguenot silversmiths immigrating to England during the 17th and 18th centuries, the art of the silversmith was raised to its highest form—Paul De Lamerie & Paul Storr being two of the finest exponents of this art form.