Dating british silver hallmarks
From around 1865 people started noticing repetitive patterns and the study on hallmarks began, exposing many frauds in decades to follow.
By 1900 a good hallmark inventory was at hand and the risks of an item being destroyed, due to falsified hallmarks, soon outweighed the profits of tax evasions.
This changed around 1840 when falsified hallmarks, named "pseudo marks" appeared on the market to dodge taxes.
In those days the English government raised taxes on imported gold and silver work, with the exemption of antique items.
On a large percentage of antique jewelry these hallmarks are, due to various reasons, absent and estimations on the origin can only be done through careful observation and, if present, the correct interpretation of accompanying documentation.
When hallmarks are present, they can add greatly to the value of the coveted object and that is especially true when the stamp is rare or that of an important maker.
By that time the general taste had changed from eclecticism to Art Nouveau and Edwardian.
When it could be avoided, for instance when it was not mandatory, the smiths would choose not to have their items marked.
For estate jewelers and jewelry historians, hallmarks provide for an extra source of information to accurately date a jewelry object and determine by whom it was made.
The most encountered hallmark on jewelry is undoubtedly the "purity" mark which indicates the total amount of gold or silver used to manufacture a coveted jewel.
King Hiero II of Syracuse gave Archimedes the assignment to investigate the purity of a newly commissioned golden wreath, believing silver was added to the gold content.
The famous story ends with Archimedes running through the streets shouting "eureka, eureka" after he found a means to expose the deceit while he sat in a bath tub.