In England silver has been marked in some manner since the 12th century when it was first regulated by Parliament.The marks made it possible to trace the maker and the place of manufacture.The mark is a Lion Passant-the image of a lion walking, facing left.You may be sure that an object bearing this mark is English sterling silver made after 1719.If it is English Sterling silver you should be able to determine the year it was made, in what city it was assayed, you will probably also be able to determine who the maker is, although those lists are far from complete. If there is a maker’s mark on it, the maker can be identified by consulting a good “mark book”.To find silverplaters one such good reference book is: Sheffield & Birmingham Victorian Electroplaters Book of Marks, Andrea De Giovanni, 1991.
Many factories changed their mark over time, so it is possible to approximately date a piece by the mark itself. In the case of one manufacturer, Elkington, their pieces were so completely marked that you will know what year the item was made, but this is unusual for silverplaters. 3 Example of Silverplate Marks (left to right)EP: Electroplate J D & S (4 marks): James Dixon & Sons-this mark was used from 1879 onwards Horn symbol: Mark of James Dixon and Sons that was added in 1886 to the JD&S mark.
The earliest form of silver plating was Sheffield plate, where thin sheets of silver were fused to a layer or core of base metal of copper.
Since about 1840 a process called electroplating has been used. Many of the early pieces were impressed with marks resembling hallmarks used on sterling silver.
In 1719 Parliament established the standard for purity for sterling silver and instituted a mark indicating that an item is of sufficient purity to be deemed sterling.
That standard means an item is made of 92.5% pure silver.