✅ SOLVED Cannot find the maker

pepperj

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Trying to get the date and the maker of this watch chain, hoping somebody can provide some insight please.
I think it's from Birmingham
Not sure if that A is from 1888 or 1900 for the date code
.
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Can't match the maker up from the records either. J.W.B.Ld

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Watch chain 44 grams, 22 inches long.
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Red-Coat

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Nice chain. I see that there is a lion passant mark for sterling on each link which is as it should be. The other marks don’t have to be on every link or component providing the component parts are inseparable from one another.

The lower case ‘a’ in that style could only be 1798 or 1900 for Birmingham assay. It can’t be 1888, which would be a lower case gothic ‘o’. Apart from the unlikelihood of it being as early as 1798, that mark would – I think - be accompanied by a ‘duty mark’ (the head of George III) as proof that tax had been paid at time of assay. Watch cases were exempted from duty in 1798 but I can’t remember if the exemption also applied to watch chains from that date.

The maker mark is for J W Benson Ltd. of Ludgate Hill, London which is consistent with a 1900 assay. It’s not unusual for London ‘makers’ to use the Birmingham assay office. In many cases it’s because the pieces were actually made in Birmingham workshops and sold through a primary showroom or jeweller’s outlet in London. Many makers registered their mark in both places for flexibility and that’s the case for Benson.

Note that when the kind of website you used for reference refers to “Birmingham makers” or whatever, that’s misleading. What it actually means is the maker could have been based anywhere in the country, but chose to register his mark in Birmingham for assay purposes.
 

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pepperj

pepperj

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Nice chain. I see that there is a lion passant mark for sterling on each link which is as it should be. The other marks don’t have to be on every link or component providing the component parts are inseparable from one another.

The lower case ‘a’ in that style could only be 1798 or 1900 for Birmingham assay. It can’t be 1888, which would be a lower case gothic ‘o’. Apart from the unlikelihood of it being as early as 1798, that mark would – I think - be accompanied by a ‘duty mark’ (the head of George III) as proof that tax had been paid at time of assay. Watch cases were exempted from duty in 1798 but I can’t remember if the exemption also applied to watch chains from that date.

The maker mark is for J W Benson Ltd. of Ludgate Hill, London which is consistent with a 1900 assay. It’s not unusual for London ‘makers’ to use the Birmingham assay office. In many cases it’s because the pieces were actually made in Birmingham workshops and sold through a primary showroom or jeweller’s outlet in London. Many makers registered their mark in both places for flexibility and that’s the case for Benson.

Note that when the kind of website you used for reference refers to “Birmingham makers” or whatever, that’s misleading. What it actually means is the maker could have been based anywhere in the country, but chose to register his mark in Birmingham for assay purposes.
One other thing to note is that the correct term for the 'maker's' identity mark in a hallmark set is "sponsor's mark". That's the person accepting the legal responsibility arising from the sale of the item... but isn't always the person/company who manufactured it.
Great information RC thank you very much.
When it comes to this stuff you're a brilliant resource to have on the forum.
 

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tamrock

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Interesting how extensively this chain is marked. I'd like to know do the stamps that apply the hallmarks fall under any type of goverment registrations? The manufacturering of these stamps had to be an industry on its own I'm thanking.
 

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Red-Coat

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Interesting how extensively this chain is marked. I'd like to know do the stamps that apply the hallmarks fall under any type of goverment registrations? The manufacturering of these stamps had to be an industry on its own I'm thanking.

Yes, our hallmarking process is regulated with respect to what has to be hallmarked and how. Imitations of the marks used are prohibited if they are sufficiently similar to the real thing that they could be misleading. Unlike America, they must be applied by the assay office, not by the manufacturer.

Each assay office chooses a symbol to identify itself (eg an anchor for Birmingham) and must ensure that the date letters they use in their own office are unique with respect to font style and /or cartouche to identify a particular year without the possibility of confusion. The assay office choses its own sequence, starting with an ‘A’ letter of some kind but, because the offices didn’t all have the same establishment year, the letter represents a different date for each assay office. Also, some letters may be skipped in certain sequences to prevent confusion. For example, London has only rarely used ‘J’ to prevent confusion with ‘I’ in most font styles, and didn’t use ‘Z’ at all until 1999, to prevent confusion with ‘2’. So, sequences don’t run for a full 26-year cycle and it varies for each assay office and time period.

A sponsor (the person accepting responsibility for the sale of the item) must pay a registration fee at each assay office he wants to use and will be allocated a set of initials, or can choose them. Standard punches are normally used for the letters. The assay office checks that those initials are not already in use, but will normally allow variants. So if someone has already registered ‘ABC’, you might still be allowed to register ‘A.B.C.’ or ‘abc’, or the same letters in gothic script. For an additional fee covering the cost of a customised punch to be prepared, you can have a monogram, logo or other design instead of simple initials.

There is then a further fee for each item submitted for assay. Traditionally, items which fail assay and cannot be marked for a lower standard than requested are put into a press, squashed flat, and returned to sender. I’ve been silversmithing for some years now and our class tutor advised that, if we were to submit any of our work for assay, then we should include a note that says “Amateur class work. Please do not destroy.” Amateurs often use an excessive amount of solder (with a lower silver content than the piece itself) which can exceed the permitted tolerance.
 

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pepperj

pepperj

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Yes, our hallmarking process is regulated with respect to what has to be hallmarked and how. Imitations of the marks used are prohibited if they are sufficiently similar to the real thing that they could be misleading. Unlike America, they must be applied by the assay office, not by the manufacturer.

Each assay office chooses a symbol to identify itself (eg an anchor for Birmingham) and must ensure that the date letters they use in their own office are unique with respect to font style and /or cartouche to identify a particular year without the possibility of confusion. The assay office choses its own sequence, starting with an ‘A’ letter of some kind but, because the offices didn’t all have the same establishment year, the letter represents a different date for each assay office. Also, some letters may be skipped in certain sequences to prevent confusion. For example, London has only rarely used ‘J’ to prevent confusion with ‘I’ in most font styles, and didn’t use ‘Z’ at all until 1999, to prevent confusion with ‘2’. So, sequences don’t run for a full 26-year cycle and it varies for each assay office and time period.

A sponsor (the person accepting responsibility for the sale of the item) must pay a registration fee at each assay office he wants to use and will be allocated a set of initials, or can choose them. Standard punches are normally used for the letters. The assay office checks that those initials are not already in use, but will normally allow variants. So if someone has already registered ‘ABC’, you might still be allowed to register ‘A.B.C.’ or ‘abc’, or the same letters in gothic script. For an additional fee covering the cost of a customised punch to be prepared, you can have a logo or other design instead of initials.

There is then a further fee for each item submitted for assay. Traditionally, items which fail assay and cannot be marked for a lower standard than requested are put into a press, squashed flat, and returned to sender. I’ve been silversmithing for some years now and our class tutor advised that, if we were to submit any of our work for assay, then we should include a note that says “Amateur class work. Please do not destroy.” Amateurs often use an excessive amount of solder (with a lower silver content than the piece itself) which can exceed the permitted tolerance.
Thanks for the explanation
It's a good day having learnt something new again.

So 5 stamps/cartouche marks would cover everything?

Screen Shot 2023-12-04 at 8.49.43 AM.png
 

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Red-Coat

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Thanks for the explanation
It's a good day having learnt something new again.

So 5 stamps/cartouche marks would cover everything?

View attachment 2118588

You're welcome.

Yes, but only four marks in some time periods, known as the ‘compulsory marks’. The third mark in the set of five you’re showing (as Queen Victoria’s head) is a ‘duty mark’. Duty (tax) was payable on silver items at time of assay in England between 1784-1890, so you won’t find that mark outside those dates. Also, as I mentioned previously, some items such as watch cases were exempt from duty and don’t carry the mark.

Silver carrying the duty mark may also have a sixth mark known as a ‘drawback mark’ to indicate that it has been exported and the duty reclaimed by the sponsor. In addition, we have other marks that could (must) be present such as import marks on foreign silver.

Small items or those with unsuitable surfaces for stamping aren't required to be hallmarked or may have the hallmarks stamped on a small tag inseparably attached to the piece. You'll often see that on small chains.

Special temporary hallmarks have also been adopted in certain years in modern times to commemorate special events and anniversaries: 1935 (Silver Jubilee of King George V); 1953 (Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II); 1977 (Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II); 2000 (Millennium Mark); 2002 (Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II); and 2012 (Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II).

There were also substantial modifications to the hallmarking system in 1999. The compulsory marks were reduced to three: the Assay Office mark; the sponsor's or maker's mark (at least two letters within a shield); and the metal and fineness mark (purity in millesimal number, so 925 for sterling silver). The traditional fineness marks (lion passant, lion rampant or Britannia) and date letters are generally still maintained, but only on a voluntary basis.
 

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tamrock

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It's amazing a process such as the British hallmarks has endured for over 700 years. There's so many books on how to understand the hallmarks, but I'd like find a good read on the whole history of this system. I would imagine a whole chapter could be written on the notable attempts in corruption involved throughout the history instigated by those who feel rules are meant to be broken. One of the the things I think about doing is taking a silversmith class locally, which I do have several options nearby in Boulder, Colorado.
 

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pepperj

pepperj

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You're welcome.

Yes, but only four marks in some time periods, known as the ‘compulsory marks’. The third mark in the set of five you’re showing (as Queen Victoria’s head) is a ‘duty mark’. Duty (tax) was payable on silver items at time of assay in England between 1784-1890, so you won’t find that mark outside those dates. Also, as I mentioned previously, some items such as watch cases were exempt from duty and don’t carry the mark.

Silver carrying the duty mark may also have a sixth mark known as a ‘drawback mark’ to indicate that it has been exported and the duty reclaimed by the sponsor. In addition, we have other marks that could (must) be present such as import marks on foreign silver.

Small items or those with unsuitable surfaces for stamping aren't required to be hallmarked or may have the hallmarks stamped on a small tag inseparably attached to the piece. You'll often see that on small chains.

Special temporary hallmarks have also been adopted in certain years in modern times to commemorate special events and anniversaries: 1935 (Silver Jubilee of King George V); 1953 (Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II); 1977 (Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II); 2000 (Millennium Mark); 2002 (Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II); and 2012 (Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II).

There were also substantial modifications to the hallmarking system in 1999. The compulsory marks were reduced to three: the Assay Office mark; the sponsor's or maker's mark (at least two letters within a shield); and the metal and fineness mark (purity in millesimal number, so 925 for sterling silver). The traditional fineness marks (lion passant, lion rampant or Britannia) and date letters are generally still maintained, but only on a voluntary basis.
Great reading and learning lots.

Just another query: The screen shot tells a lot regarding what each mark represents but I can't seem to get what the mark between the T.A. and the loin passant is?

Screen Shot 2023-12-04 at 9.55.14 AM.png
 

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Red-Coat

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It's amazing a process such as the British hallmarks has endured for over 700 years. There's so many books on how to understand the hallmarks, but I'd like find a good read on the whole history of this system. I would imagine a whole chapter could be written on the notable attempts in corruption involved throughout the history instigated by those who feel rules are meant to be broken. One of the the things I think about doing is taking a silversmith class locally, which I do have several options nearby in Boulder, Colorado.

It’s certainly a fascinating story. I’m trying to condense what I know here into a few paragraphs but there are many exceptions, anomalies and fraudulent marks which would easily fill a book.

I wholeheartedly recommend trying your hand at silversmithing. I find it a challenging blend of science and art with a satisfying reward when things go to plan. At the risk of derailing this thread, here’s a few of my early attempts:

Star Diopside Ring.jpg Rutilated Quartz Brooch1.jpg Rutilated Quartz Brooch2.jpg Art Deco Pendant.jpg
 

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Red-Coat

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Great reading and learning lots.

Just another query: The screen shot tells a lot regarding what each mark represents but I can't seem to get what the mark between the T.A. and the loin passant is?

Unfortunately, the picture is not clear enough to see what the mark actually is, beyond it being a diamond lozenge, so I can’t say for certain.

Bear in mind though that although a hallmark set from an assay office must have the ‘compulsory marks’ there was (and still is) no restriction on the maker applying additional marks, as long as they aren’t misleading.

Silver pieces – especially larger ones - commonly have additional letters, numbers and symbols as workshop marks for quality control or traceability purposes and to identify a particular style/design, or to designate exclusivity for a particular customer.

Also, as an addendum to the maker's mark, each individual worker could apply their own personal 'hallmark', known as a "journeyman's mark". These identify the actual workman who made the piece under the employ of the maker. Journeymen were craftsmen who had been made free of a Livery Company having completed a term of apprenticeship and were thus qualified to practice their craft. Setting up a workshop was an expensive undertaking and newly qualified apprentices would usually take employment in an established workshop for a while until they had sufficient funds to go ‘solo’ or form a partnership with another silversmith.

There was no formal register for journeyman marks, they didn’t usually last for more than a few years and most of them remain unidentified. Most usually they’re seen on flatware and began appearing in the 1780s. Often they’re simple symbols such as dots, crosses, hearts, crescents etc. and may be properly impressed from a punch or crudely hand-engraved with a steel tool. They usually appear alongside, or sometimes incorporated with, the maker’s mark.
 

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