French Silver

Silver from France
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French silver and gold work, were renowned throughout Europe. When England established its first hall mark, the “leopard head,” in 1300, the law stated that no goldsmith should make any wares of gold worse than the “Touch of Paris.”—thus showing that gold or silver made in Paris was the standard by which all should be judged. The Paris silver standard was established in 1554 at .958/1000. This was the same as the English “Britannia” standard. The other guilds outside of Paris established their own silver standards ranging from: .791/1000 - .944/1000.

In 1543, a royal decree made the Guild system compulsory throughout France. At the same time in England there were only 5 cities that had guild charters, but in France there were 178 city or Departments (guild). This made the hall marking system very complicated, with each guild designing its own system.

Town Mark

This mark was in use prior to 1275 by the city of Tours. It normally consisted of the city’s coat of arms or—in the case of Paris—the “Crowned A” touch mark.

The Warden’s Mark

This mark was placed on all silver that was tested and came up to the quality warranted by the guild; it was first used around 1400.

The Duty or Tax mark

This tax mark was first established in 1631during the reign of Louis XIII. It was levied on all gold and silver wares. Later, during the reign of Louis XIV in 1672, the tax was expanded to cover new, antique, exported and imported items. The marks showed that the item conformed to the regulations of the treasury.

The maker or Master goldsmiths mark

This mark was used as far back as the 14th century; its size and shape varied considerably; however, by 1679 the mark and size was standardized.

Date letters

In many cities there was a system of date letters which changed when a new warden took office. In the case of the city (or Department of Aix), the actual date was used.

Finally, during the reign of Napoleon in 1798, the silver hall marks were standardized though out the country. Two silver standards were used. 800 & .950/1000, along with a makers mark. In 1973 the .950 standard was abandoned in lieu of the sterling (.925) standard. The .800 standard also remains in use.