Much like we have birthmarks which are unique to us, every piece of silver and gold ware has an unique hallmark. These are the stamps placed (usually) on the inside, or beneath – as is the case with larger pieces, when the piece is assayed**.
– initials (the maker’s mark)
– the minimum silver or gold content; e.g. 925 silver is a fraction with purity at 1000
– code letter (date of manufacture)
– Assay Office mark
** Assaying, especially in the context of gold, dates back to the First Dynasty of Ancient Egypt. This was also later evident in Ancient Rome, and later in Western Europe in 1300 CE.
It is the test of the purity of metal, and is conducted in the majority of countries in the world with Assay Offices, so also shows the location of the manufacturer.
Today, in The British Museum (Bloomsbury, London, UK), bars of gold from Ancient Rome are on display, and worth checking out!