The 'F' (Foreign Import) Mark On Flatware

By Anthony Dove F.R.S.A.

This spoon was shown to me as a London assayed curiosity in apparently having two date letters. The initial explanation was simple, in that the extra 'F' was a foreign import mark. One strange thing about this spoon is that there is no sign of any foreign hallmarks having been struck on it. There is, however, a further point of interest in this particular item.

It was proposed in an Act of Parliament (30/31 Vict. c.82 s.24) to mark "with the letter 'F' in an oval escutcheon all plate from foreign parts (not wrought or made in England, Scotland or Ireland)". This was to be in addition to the normal assay marks used. The point about this mark was that it was supposed to start in 1867.

The mark illustrated here is in conjunction with a London hallmark for 1889 (date letter '0'). Previously the earliest example known to me of this 'F' mark is 1890 (date letter 'P').

Have any members seen other examples of this 'F' mark on an item earlier than 1889, with or without a foreign hallmark?

I would like to thank Michael Golding for the photograph used here.


Oliver Griffin is looking for help identifying this teaspoon. It has engine-turning decoration on the front, plain on the back, weights 31g and 16.8cm in length.


The Finial, August/September 2003

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