Since time immemorial silver has been a symbol of wealth and a store of value. In ancient Greece and Rome silver was used as the high value coninage and bronze as the 'penny'.
In medieval England, a true sign of properity was the salt cellar which stood on the table in front of the master, to his left sat his wife and the other members of the household and to his right sat the guests placed very carefully in order of wealth and merit. This table etiquette was known as 'the order of the salt'. Two present day phrases are derived from this: "worth his salt" and "right hand man".
In 1300 a statute of King Edward I provided no wares of silver or gold could be sold until it had been taken to the headquarters of the guardians of the craft and tested. If approved the article was struck with a mark guaranteeing the purity of the metal - the King's mark. This was the first known instance of consumer protection law and 700 years later this tradition still applies!
In 1363 a statute of King Edward III provided that every silversmith "should have a mark by himself" struck beside the King's mark. A statute in 1478 made the Goldsmiths' Company liable to a fine if it marked substandard silver. To help identify the assayer responsible, an assay mark or date letter was added to the King's Mark and the Maker's Mark. The date letter became an upper or lower case letter of the alphabet.
During the reign of Henry VIII the coinage had become so debased as to be worth half its true value. In 1544 a fourth mark was introduced by the Goldsmiths' Company. This mark was called the Lion Passant and soon became known as the sterling mark, guaranteeing the purity of the silver as 925 parts per thousand.
There are four Assay Offices which are legally empowered to test precious metal objects and to apply a hallmark to them. These offices are in London, Sheffield, Birmingham and Edinburgh. Up to the end of 1998, all imported silver had to be assayed by a British Assay office, as guaranteed 925 parts per 1000 but from January 1999 newly introduced standards allow 800 parts per thousand (being popular in Scandinavia and also in the European Comunity) as well as 999 parts per 1000.
During 1999 and 2000 the British Assay Offices are using a special "Millenium Hallmark". Only silver hallmarked in these offices during these two years will bear this particular hallmark which will (no doubt), in time, give the items an intrinsic collectability.
Background on our Silversmith
In 1933 the silversmith Dunstan Pruden joined the Eric Gill Founded Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic on Ditchling Common, East Sussex. His work such as the famous 22 ct Gold Pruden Chalice in the Metropolitan Cathedral, Liverpool, influenced a whole generation of craftworkers.
His grandson Anton Pruden returned to Ditchling in 1989 and with Rebecca Smith founded Pruden & Smith, a company renowned for their high quality hand-made silverware. With Rebecca's training in Fine Art, alongside other silversmiths,jewellers and apprentices their outlets include Harrods and Mappin and Webb...as well as our dear selves!
We have been struck by the striking array of modern silverwork and jewellery. Heavy Guage materials are always used and all items bear UK hallmarks. Traditional and modern methods are employed to make items of practicality as well as beauty. You will notice that their items are heavier than most alternatives - they do not skimp on the amount of silver in order to cheapen the product. You will be impressed at the feeling of "substantialness" and quality each piece imparts. Hammer marks (known as planishing marks)are usually left in, where appropriate, in the Arts and Crafts style. Each piece is lovingly formed, hammered and finished in the knowledge that its individuality will live on, way past that of its maker. You will be proud of these gifts made to last and be valued for ever!
Please note, we have only limited stocks of these items and orders will be fulfilled on a first come, first served basis. If demand outstrips our supplies, more will be made available, but they may have to be made up and so there could be a delay of some weeks. These are not production line items. Please be prepared!