British sterling silver hallmarks assist in identifying the maker and/or year of manufacture of sterling silver items produced in Britain. Being able to identify these marks yourself can help you escape pricey blunders in both the buying and selling of antique silver. By decree, British sterling silver has to be 925 parts silver to 75 parts other alloy metals. This is recognized as the "sterling standard." This standard has remained in its position in Great Britain for hundreds of years, with the majority of other countries accepting this standard much later on. Every single removable piece of a British sterling object must be properly hallmarked. For example, an antique silver teapot with a lid will have inscriptions on the pot, as well as under the lid. Any reputable antique silver dealer will tell you this when you make a purchase, but it is nice to know beforehand.
All over Great Britain we use the same method to mark the sterling silver. Each object is examined for excellence and is then marked with a sequence of 4 or 5 characters, each in a pictogram of the same shape. The hallmarks will tell you if the item is sterling, what town it was inspected in, the date of examination and the maker's very own initials.
The figure for English sterling is a lion walking also known as the "Lion Passant". The majority of countries that live under the reign of the British crown have their own individual sterling marks, instead of using the lion. Ireland, for example uses a harp while Scotland uses a flower, etc. An important point to note is that England itself has made the majority of antique silver sterling products over the last centuries. Silver products from Scotland or Ireland for example, are uncommon, and can go for higher prices.
Best of luck on your search for beautiful antique silver in Britain!