THE OBJECTS OF MARKS.

There is no doubt that one of the more important objects of marking silver was to prevent imposition, for counterfeit marking of plate was always punished severely. The Goldsmiths' Company did all they could to protect the innocent buyer from fraud. Needless to say there have been clever counterfeiters, and many of the marks have been copied, but as in other things the fraudulent maker often defeated his object, over-reaching himself in his attempt to slavishly copy an earlier mark, very frequently adding something that the expert could readily distinguish. To the uninitiated the marks upon old silver appear to be very complicated. Briefly it may be stated that while there are what may be termed general marks, used con-currently everywhere throughout this country, the different halls of assay in London and in the provinces have varied their markings, and especially so the date letters. A handy table which will enable the amateur collector to remember the chief points connected with early hall-marking is as follows : (1) The leopard's head, crowned, introduced about 1300. (2) The maker's mark, his symbol or initials, met with as early as 1360. (3) The date letter, which is changed in May every year, used almost continuously in this country from 1473. (4) The lion mark, beginning in 1545. (5) The Sovereign's head, first used in December, 1784, discontinued in 1890. These various marks were undoubtedly instituted with definite objects, thus, for instance, the Sovereign's head which was first used in 1784 was the mark indicating that the duty on silver plate which was then instituted had been paid ; but when the duty was taken off in 1890 the use of the Royal portrait was no longer required, and it was discontinued.