Identifying the background of Sterling Silver pieces can be done quite easily by using the Hallmarks and Maker’s Marks as a reference.
However, it’s more difficult to work out the history of Silver Plated items. They don’t have Hallmarks from an Assay Office, so a number of makers included marks to give more authenticity to their wares.
Some manufacturers would include a letter to show the town where an item was made, such as an S for Sheffield, L for London, G for Glasgow or M for Manchester. Birmingham doesn’t seem to have been included in this lettering, so it was possible Birmingham based makers used S for Sheffield instead.
The quality of the Silver Plate was shown by makers imprinting another letter on their wares. A1 was used for the best quality with D being the lowest quality, with the least amount of Silver used in the plating process. Where less Silver Plate is used it is more likely to wear away, showing the base metal underneath.
A few manufacturers used date letters so people could identify the age of items. However each company created their own date letter system which makes it harder to identify the correct age.
An Elkington Toast Rack with a letter p for 1901
A lot of vintage Silver Plated items will include a maker’s mark, however this could be a symbol rather than the initials of the manufacturer. For instance Barker Brothers used a maker’s mark of BB or BBS in a shield on Sterling Silver, but on Silver Plate they put a symbol of three stars in three circles.
Manufacturer’s symbols have ranged from birds and animals to shapes or gothic letters.
The one symbol Silver Plate manufacturers are not allowed to add is a crown. This was forbidden in 1895 as it was too easy to confuse with the Sheffield Assay Office’s Sterling Silver stamp. If an item includes a crown as a mark it will have been made before 1895.
A Victorian Silver Plated spoon with crown marks.