The Introduction of Double Mark Punches
(for the hall-marking of London plate)


By David J.M. McKinley.


As far as the records are concerned the double mark punch, the single punch for use with the hammer but with two hall-marks engraved on its head instead of the usual one[1], first makes its appearance on the mark-plate[2] for 1782 where it takes the form of the date letter in a Saxon shield with curved base and clipped top corners followed by the sterling lion in an oval cartouche. This mark was used for the top marking of tea spoons[3], Figure 1 (1782 teaspoon by Hester Bateman).

The mark had, in fact, come into use the previous year but had done so after the beginning of the marking year and does not, therefore, appear on the mark-plate for 1781. There are, however, spoons marked in this way, Figure 2[4] (1781 teaspoon by Hester Bateman).

Oddly there is no record of this mark on the 1783 mark-plate and this remains a mystery as the punch appears to have been used on teaspoons in that year, Figure 3[5] (1783 teaspoon by Thomas Evans and Jacob Levi).

  
Fig.1                Fig.2                      Fig.3*
The mark book[6] for 1785 reads; "3 DubIe (sic) marks for tea spoons, a press mark for spoons, a press mark for watch cases, a duble mark for tea spoons". It seems that this was the last year in which this particular mark was used and in 1786, when the duty mark was incorporated with the other marks on a single stub[7] for use in the fly press, a stub carrying three marks was produced for marking tea spoons mechanically and, although the outlines to the lion and date letter marks remain unchanged, the order in which these marks appear is reversed. The mark book for 1786 reads, "Press marks with 4 mks for waiters, Ditto with 3 marks for teaspoons", Figure 4 (1786 teaspoon by George Smith and William Fearn).


Fig.4

Having experienced the usefulness of the double mark punch, introduced experimentally for marking teaspoons, the Wardens introduced this format again in 1788 for which year the mark book entry reads, "DubIe marks for rings". This time, however, the sequence was Duty mark followed by the sterling lion, which is in a rectangular outline with clipped top comers and an ogee base.

In 1789 the use of this mark was extended to cover other small items of plate and the mark-book entry for that year reads, "DubIe marks for buttons, DubIe marks for rings, DubIe marks for knife hafts". As far as one can ascertain from an examination of the mark-plate there was only one size of this punch produced and it must, therefore, have been used on all three of these items. In 1790, however, two sizes of this punch appear on the mark-plate and the mark book entry reads; "Duble marks, Duble marks for rings".

Although this first entry is unqualified I am able to establish from observation that the larger of these two marks was used on sugar tongs. This fact is very useful for dating purposes since pressmarks were used on tongs in the following year and any tongs bearing this mark therefore must have been assayed in the marking year 1790/91.

The mark-book entry for 1791 reads as follows; "Duble marks 1 size for small plate, ditto 2 size for ditto, Treble marks for tea tongs, Ditto for gate(?) rings, Ditto upright marks for experiment, Press marks with 3 for tea tongs, upright marks with 3 for experiment, Duble marks 2 size". From which it can be seen that the pressmark, which takes the form of this double mark with the addition of the date letter was introduced for use on sugar tongs in that year. Although the double mark punch introduced in 1788 was still being produced in 1792, at this stage it must have been for use on buttons only as in that year both rings and knife hafts were being marked by means of the press with a triple mark which was of this same format but with the addition of the date letter at the end of the sequence. The mark, which had been introduced for use on sugar tongs the year before, Figure 5 (1793 sugar tongs by Stephen Adams II).


Fig.5

By 1792 it had become obvious that double mark punches could be of great use in the marking of all sorts of other plate and in this year two other double mark punches were introduced; one with the lion followed by the leopard and the other with date letter followed by the duty mark, Figure 6 (1837 goblet by William Hewitt). Not only were these marks used on some hollow ware, on the curved surfaces of which the press could not be used, but they proved most useful in the marking of plate for which the usual marks were not appropriate, Figure 7 (1835 Britannia standard teaspoon by Richard Britton); Figure 8 for comparison of sterling silver hallmarks of the same date.

  
Fig.6                   Fig.7**                       Fig.8
Recognition of these double marks can be of considerable assistance to the collector in, for instance, determining the date of a piece. Figure 9 is of a milk jug by Andrew Fogelberg and has the date letter "0" for either 1789 or 1809. Close examination of the marks reveals that, whereas the lion and leopard marks have been individually punched, the date letter and the duty mark have been applied by means of a double mark punch so that the jug must have been assayed after 1792. Its assay date is, therefore, 1809.


Fig.9

By the turn of the century the idea of the double mark punch was well established and in 1813 a unique and rather delicate little mark was introduced for marking pendants on which no duty was payable. This took the form of a double diamond or lozenge in the first half of which was the date letter and in the second the sterling lion. This mark appears not only to be unique in its design but is also smaller than any other mark that I have yet come across. I imagine that it is also somewhat uncommon[8].

It is possible that there are yet more of these double marks awaiting discovery and I hope that further research will reveal more about experimental marking of this sort during this period and that this will lead to a better understanding of all the changes in hall-marking which took place at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries.

Notes:
1. Pingo, the engraver, mentions "double marks on single punches for teaspoons" in his petition for an increase in salary in 1786.
2. The metal plate kept at Goldsmiths' Hall on which are struck all the marks used in a given year.
3. Hallmarking at the wide end of the handle rather than on the narrow stem near the bowl. From 1st November 1781 spoons and forks were usually marked in this way.
4. Unless struck squarely the marks on such a punch would be prone to leaving an uneven impression and this could account for the apparently excessive robbing on the lion in this example.
5. If, for some reason, Pingo did not produce the punch to the Committee until after 29th. May 1783 it would not appear on the mark-plate.
6. The book kept at Goldsmiths' Hall which accompanies the mark-plate and records the number of each of the punches produced in a given year and what plate they were used on. There is no mark book extant for the period before 1785.
7. The word 'stub' equates to the expression 'press mark'' in the mark book and refers to the metal bar which is held in the jaws of the press and on which are engraved the hall-marks.
8. This mark was first brought to my attention by Tony Dove who discovered it while we were searching through the records in July 2002. D.M.

Acknowledgements:
  • I am indebted to The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths for allowing me research facilities and for allowing me to quote from their records. I would like to thank especially David Beasley and his staff for their assistance in finding the appropriate records.
  • I am most grateful to both Dr. Chris Bell and Mr. Tony Dove F.R.S.A. for all the help they have given me in the study of London hall-marks of which this essay forms a small part.
  • N.B. Some of the information in this essay was first published in an article on the fly press in April/May 2002 of 'The Finial' the journal of The Silver Spoon Club of Great Britain.
    * Photograph produced by kind permission of Schredds of Portobello.
    ** Photograph produced by kind permission of Tony Dove F.R.S.A.

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    .8. / .9. / .10.
  • The Finial, June/July 2003


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