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Swedish Silver - Silver Marks

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( Originally Published 1951 )

As we have mentioned, it was decreed as early as 1485 that all masters should put their marks on silver in Sweden. The oldest known marks, however, appear about a hundred years later. Silversmiths appear to have used a sort of trademark during the sixteenth century (Plate rora), but from about i6oo, two or more initials were included in the mark, often in a monogram (Plate rozb and c). During the eighteenth century it was common for silversmiths to use a larger mark on which the entire surname appeared, and in addition, a smaller stamp with two or three initials. Sometimes the surname was shortened to one or two letters. For example, Nicklas Hoffberg of Stockholm (1712-1746) had two marks, one with the letters N H, the other with the letters N H B.

The principle of the city mark was introduced in 1596, when the silversmiths' guilds of Vadsiena, Linkoping, and Stockholm were granted new privileges. The Stockholm smiths used an open crown until about r6go, thereafter a St.Erik's head in full face or profile. The city of Linkoping had a lion mask; Gothenburg a crested G B (later G); iV[alrno a griffin head; Norrkoping a hand, holding an ax under a crown-after 1735, St. Olof's picture with ax and apple. Halsingborg had three towers, Strangnas a sword and key crossed, Upsala an orb, Arboga a spread eagle, to name a few. Sometimes there appears on seventeenth-century silver the master's initials and the city mark joined in one stamp. The city mark, however, is not always stamped on silver, even on later pieces.

Year marks or date letters before 1759 are a study. In 1689 the Stockholm masters began to mark their works with an A, 1690 was indicated with B, and so on. Later, year marks were introduced in many cities, but since all began with A, there were several different systems. When the entire alphabet A-Z had been exhausted after twenty-four years, it was decided to begin again with A, either in a different letter or in the same type. Thus a common A (Roman capital) together with a Gothenburg city mark can mean 1693, 1717, or 1741. On the other hand, the Stockholm trade used the alphabet A-Z (Roman capitals) from 1689 to 1712, cursive letters A-Z from 1713 to 1736, and a-z (small Gothic letters) from 1737 to 1758. In 1759 a system was introduced for the whole country. It consists of letters and numerals and is still in use.

A fourth control of the fineness of the silver was the so-called alderman's mark, a zigzag line left by him when he scraped away a small quantity of metal to test for purity. Since pieces which did not come up to standard were scrapped, the alderman's mark became a guaranty of quality. In 1754 the state took over, and the old mark was replaced with a new control mark: the Swedish coat of arms with the three crowns.

About 1860 the old city marks were replaced by the initial of the city. Different cities with the same initial letter are distinguished by the formation of the letter and the contour of the mark. Stockholm has, however, retained the St. Erik's head. Several towns and municipalities also have their own city marks.

Since the middle of the eighteenth century, control marks have appeared on gold, by carat or 24-parts, and occasionally on silver, by the half-ounce or 16-parts. The most common purity of silver has been about 13 lod (1 lod = 1/2 ounce), corresponding to 813 0/00, or a little more.

The decree is dated December 7, 1752, but did not go into effect until the beginning of 1754. The three-crowns mark can therefore appear only on pieces manufactured in 1754 or thereafter, or on articles made shortly before this date but not sold when the decree went into effect, whereupon they were recontrolled. Such recontrolled articles are sometimes marked with the St. Erik's head, whether they were made in Stockholm or elsewhere.

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