HALL MARKS

There is much uncertainty about the original intent of the so-called leopard's head, which certainly was more like a lion's face in the early days. This mark, crowned at first, was afterwards uncrowned, the plate hall-marked after 1550 being so distinguished. The maker's mark usually consisted of initials or of the two first letters of date. We owe much to the indefatigable work of Mr. Octavius Morgan, who in his papers on assay, hall-marking and other branches of study in early plate, read before the Archeological Institute and published in the Archcelogical Journal, in the middle of the nineteenth century, seems to have gathered together in a few telling paragraphs the pith of the whole matter. These papers, some of them published in pamphlet form in 1853, are available to any who wish to pursue this interesting subject, and they can of course, be seen in the British Museum Library. In the days of William III it had become a very common practice to melt up current coin and thus easily secure silver for the purpose of fashioning plate of known standard. In reference to this matter Mr. Morgan in his paper " On the Assay Marks on Gold and Silver Plate," published in No. 34 of the Archcelogical Journal says, " a practice having prevailed of melting down the coin of the realm for the purpose of making silver into plate, in 1697, the standard for silver plate was raised by statute 8 & 9 William III from 11-oz. 2-dwt. to 11-oz. 10-dwt., in every pound Troy." Here then we have the standard on which the quality of silver used in plate was to be based. As given in the notes indicating the purport of this chapter, as sub-heading to " The Marking of Silver " the main things which collectors of old silver and those who are simply rich in the possession of a few pieces of plate have to consider are first the objects of the marks which are found on old silver, and the way in which these marks can be readily understood.