Irish Silver

Silver from Ireland
Browse the Irish Silver Catalogue

Smithing in precious metals was practiced as far back as 2000 BC in Ireland. With the advent of Christianity, silversmithing came into its own between 500 -1500 AD. Two national treasures,  the “Ardagh Chalice” and the “Tara Brooch” date to around 750 AD.

From 1170-1175 the Normans led by Henry II of England invaded and occupied Ireland. During this period the Guild systems were created and the first Charter was established in Dublin in 1192. By 1226,  the first known list of Irish silversmiths was compiled.

In 1637, Charles I required the “Sterling” standard to be implemented. This stated all silver was to be 925 parts silver and 75 parts to be copper. A year later, Dublin initiated its first system of hall marking with the “Harp” designating “Sterling” along with a date letter and silversmith’s mark. Because Dublin was the only Irish city with a Charter, all silver was required to be assayed there. This was rarely followed by the independent minded Irish. Cork was refused a Charter in 1714 and in turn decided to stamp all of their silver with the word “Sterling” or something close such as “Starling” or “Stirling” along with a maker’s mark. The other Provincial Irish city Guilds established their own systems sometimes with a town mark, sometimes with the “Sterling” mark but always with a maker’s mark. Finally, in 1783 England forced a heavy duty on all Provincial silversmiths to register in Dublin or be fined.

Most Irish silver has a very distinctive look with some pieces like the dish ring being almost synonymous with the Island. During its tumultuous history, much Irish silver has been melted making it rare and sought after.