In 18th and 19th century Scotland more than 30 different silversmithing centres were active from Aberdeen to Wick with each ‘hammerman’ using their own mark.
This measure was continued until 1720 and all silver marked between those two dates bore a lion’s head and the figure of Britannia in place of the lion passant.
Britannia marks may still be found on special pieces made to the higher standard.
It should be noted that while the date letter has routinely been taken to represent a single year, it was not until 1975 that all date letters were changed on January 1.
Until then, assay offices changed punches at different times of the year, so most letters were in fact used across two years.
Here, often for reasons of security and economy, it was prudent to operate outside the jurisdiction of the metropolitan assay houses of Dublin and Edinburgh.
Instead, they stamped the silver themselves with a maker's mark, a town mark or combinations of these and other marks.
Many items of Georgian and Victorian silver will carry a sovereign’s head – a ‘duty’ mark reflecting a tax on precious metals collected between 17.
The excise duty on gold and silver articles was collected by the assay offices and the mark was struck to show that it had been paid. Special commemorative stamps have been added to the regular silver marks to mark special events.
Dublin’s assay office has been operating since the middle of the 17th century and silver is still marked there.