Irish Silver Date Letters

Hallmarks are authenticating marks struck on most silver items produced or offered for sale in Ireland. Since 1637 the Assay Office in Dublin Castle has been the only body with the authority to perform this task. The marks serve several functions:

* they verify that the item is of the correct quality. In Ireland, sterling silver is not less than 92.5% pure silver, the rest is alloy.
* they give the year of manufacture.
* they record the maker or sponsor of the item.
* where appropriate, they record that duty has been paid on the item.

Below are a few examples and a guide to reading antique Irish silver hallmarks, followed by photos of as many date letters as I could manage.

The photo below shows a typical set of antique Irish silver hallmarks.

From left to right, the marks are:

1. JS; this is the maker, John Smyth of Dublin.
2. Lower case “L”. This is the stamp for 1856
3. The harp crowned, the purity mark. This shows that the article is sterling silver.
4. Hibernia. Originally this was a tax “for the encouragement of tillage”, but after 1806 when Irish silver was struck with the king’s head duty mark it became the mark signifying the Dublin Assay Office.
5. The queen’s head. This was a duty mark.

hallmarks 1

18th Century Silver hallmarks

Next is a much older set of antique Irish silver hallmarks. Unlike the first photo, the marks are not in an orderly line. This is normal. Clockwise from the top left we see the harp crowned (purity), the letter “h” (1727 in this case), and TW for the maker, Thomas Walker. The Hibernia mark was only introduced in 1730, and the monarch’s head mark came in in 1806, so we do not expect to see either. The little “dot” beside the H is normal, and a relic of the silversmithing of the piece.

For a piece of this age, these would be considered excellent marks.



Provincial silver marks

Although Dublin was the only official assay office in Ireland, in the 18th century several exceptions occured; at the time the risk of highwaymen stealing the silver was ever present, so silversmiths in certain cities, notably Cork, Galway, Kinsale, Youghal and Waterford, didn’t send their wares to Dublin but instead stamped them themselves. Though technically they were breaking the law, this interesting quirk of history gives pieces from these locations their own unique history and charm.

The photo below shows typical Cork marks; JN, for John Nicholson, stamped twice, either side of the word “Sterling”.

cork marks

The year in which a piece of Irish silver was made can be determined by the date letter – this is one of the marks described above, applied by the assay office when it is hallmarked. As there are only 26 letters in the alphabet, they are reused, which each cycle slightly different to the preceding one. However, sometimes it can be a challenge to identify which year a piece of Irish silver was made – the differences between some of the cycles can require a trained eye.

This post is quite long, apologies to fans of diamond photographs! There are 90 images (or so) of date stamps from the last 300 years, which should help to determine the age of a piece. Originally the letters cycled every 24 years, one year per letter of the alphabet, excluding J and V. In the modern era, these letters are included, giving a 26-year cycle.

Please do bookmark this page, I’ll try to fill in the gaps bit by bit! Over time it will hopefully grow to be a complete listing of Irish silver date letters.

There is a big gap from 1737 until 1758, and towards the latter half of the 20th century, hopefully I can do something about that soon!

18th Century Irish Silver Date Letters

Irish Silver Date Letters
Dublin 1708-09
Dublin Silver Date Letter for 1710
1710 date letter
Dublin 1714
Dublin 1715
Dublin 1717
Dublin 1724
Dublin 1728
Dublin 1729
Dublin 1730
Dublin 1731
Dublin 1733
Dublin 1734
Dublin 1737
Dublin 1758
Dublin 1760
Dublin 1762
Dublin 1764
Dublin 1766
Dublin 1767
Dublin 1770
Dublin 1775
Dublin 1778
Dublin 1784
Dublin 1785
Dublin 1788
Dublin 1790
irish silver date letters
Dublin 1791
Dublin 1792
Dublin 1794
Dublin 1796
Dublin 1797
Dublin 1798
Dublin 1799

19th Century Irish Silver Date Letters

Dublin 1800
Dublin 1801
Dublin 1802
Dublin 1803
Dublin 1805
Dublin 1806
Dublin 1807
Dublin 1810
Dublin 1811
Dublin 1812
Dublin 1813
Dublin 1815
Dublin 1816
Dublin 1817
Dublin 1818
Dublin 1819
irish silver date letters
Dublin 1820
Dublin 1821
irish silver date letters
Dublin 1824
Dublin 1825
Dublin 1826
Dublin 1827
Dublin 1828
Dublin 1830
irish silver date letters
Dublin 1834
irish silver date letters
Dublin 1835
Dublin 1836
irish silver date letters
Dublin 1838
Dublin 1840
Dublin 1847
Dublin 1850
Dublin 1852
Dublin 1857
Dublin 1861
Dublin 1862
Dublin 1871
Dublin 1886 Date Letter

20th Century Irish Silver Date Letters

Dublin 1905
1906 Hallmark
Dublin 1906 hallmark
1931 Hallmark
Dublin 1911
Dublin 1913
Dublin 1918
Dublin 1922
Dublin 1923
Dublin 1926
Dublin 1930
1931 Hallmark
Dublin 1931
irish silver date letters
Dublin 1939
Dublin 1964


Dublin 1966
irish silver date letters
Dublin 1967 Date Letter
irish silver date letters
Dublin 1968
irish silver date letters
Dublin 1971
Dublin 1972
Dublin 1973
Dublin 1974
Dublin 1977
Irish Silver Date Letters
Dublin 1978 Silver Date Letter

21st Century Irish Silver Date Letters

Irish Silver Date Letters
Dublin 2000
Dublin 2005
Dublin 2009
Dublin Silver Hallmark Date Letter for 2011
Dublin 2011 Date Letter