In this post, we will walk through the basics of researching your makers. This is certainly a quick overview; for more detailed information, please browse our post “Books for the Beginning Silver Collector.”
If you want to use the internet to find the maker of your piece, then I would recommend starting at this site: http://www.925-1000.com/.
The site is relatively easy to use. It is organized alphabetically. For example: If you have a spoon with a maker’s mark with a Lion and a W in a circle, you would go to “American Marks,” then “Main Menu American,” then click on the W. You’ll find that mark for Whiting and know exactly who the maker is. This site has a helpful section for marks that are pictorial.
The next site I would recommend is http://www.silvercollection.it/hallmarks.com This site is harder to navigate than the one above, but once you get used to it, you will find it has a fabulous collection of silver-plated maker’s marks.
Many maker’s marks have changed over time. Your mark may indicate for you not only the maker, but also a range of dates that your item was made in.
Things to be aware of as you research American silver marks:
Some makers employ some of the images within the English hallmarking system within their own mark. Gorham is a prime example of this, as their mark has an anchor as well as a lion passant in it.
Maker’s marks are struck into items and will be exactly the same, time after time. A poorly struck mark may leave you looking at a partial mark.
Mass produced Silver hollowware usually has a product code struck into it on the base. This can help you match a tea set by the product code.
Some companies use a date marking system. You may see a symbol that indicates the year it was made. Prime examples of companies that did this are Gorham, Stieff, and Whiting.