Maybe you are just beginning your collection of fine silver, or maybe you have been acquiring pieces for many years and are looking to expand your knowledge of the field. In either case, the following books will guide you as you seek to learn more about the world of sterling silver.
Encyclopedia of American Silver Manufacturers by Dorothy Rainwater should be at the top of the list for collectors of American silver. This very thorough and very affordable volume provides the histories of numerous American silver companies along with pictures of their maker’s marks. Great for understanding how the marks of a given company evolve over time. There is also a pictorial glossary of unlettered (and thus hard to identify) American marks.
For the collector of sterling silver flatware Sterling Flatware: An Identification and Value Guide by Tere Hagan is a must have. This book will help you identify your flatware pattern, tell you when the pattern was first produced, and give you a rough idea of the pattern’s relative desirability and value. The companion volume, Silverplated Flatware, does the same for silver plate.
If English sterling is your interest, Jackson’s Silver and Gold Marks of England, Scotland & Ireland will be indispensable in helping you understand the British hallmarking system. Not only does it explain the British hallmarking system in detail, but it pictures thousands of marks including the full series of date marks and duty marks for each of the major cities and many maker’s marks as well.
While Jackson’s is essential in decoding date marks, London Goldsmiths 1697-1837 Their Marks and Lives by Arthur G. Grimwade is especially helpful in researching maker’s marks from the Georgian period. The marks are depicted alphabetically, which is a big help if some of the marks on your piece are poorly struck or too worn to read.
International Hallmarks on Silver Collected by Tardy is an important guide to world hallmarks which depicts marks by country as well as in an analytical (pictorial) index. Although the book is written in French, the pictures of the hallmarks are still valuable even if you can’t read the text. Unfortunately the book is not easy to come by, and second hand copies are expensive, but if you are serious about collecting European silver especially, it is worth the investment.
Seymour B. Wyler’s The Book of Old Silver is a great all-around guide to silver with lots of pictures of hallmarks. If you’ve looked everywhere else and still can’t find your mark pictured, this book may be your solution.