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.

hallmarks

 

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