Identifying the hallmark on a piece of silver can give you valuable information about where and when the piece was made. Identifying the LK hallmark, albeit tentatively, illustrates the steps you need to take to learn about your own silver treasure. Because gold and silver pieces have inherent value because of their metals, they were among the first manufactured objects whose quality was regulated by governments. The word hallmark refers to the medieval practice of self-regulation by gold and silver smiths, attesting to the metal value and workmanship standards of the guild hall and its members.
Photograph or hand-copy all the information printed near or around the LK hallmark. You may see stamped symbols, other letters, and numbers; combining this information with the LK hallmark will enable you to verify where your silver piece was made. Both hallmarks and silver-content information are usually heavily incised.
Narrow your search by applying any other knowledge about your piece to your search. Some of it is common sense: the letters LK are in the Western alphabet, not Cyrillic, Arabic or Asian. Hallmarks often contain a first and last name or the last names of partners. There are many names in England, Germany and Scandinavia that begin with the letter K; it is hard to think of a French or Italian name starting with a K.
Go to the library or online to find out about known silver hallmarks. Resources in print or online are abundant. Your goal is to match all the symbols, letters and numbers incised on the silver for a valid identification. Nearly all resources are organised alphabetically as well as by country, which makes your search easier.
Compare your photos or drawings with pictures of hallmarks. For example, an LK hallmark accompanied by a crescent moon and crown marked with .900 allows you to identify the following information. Beginning in 1884, the symbols showing town of origin in Germany were replaced by a single state mark: moon and crown. By 1888, these markings were required on all German silver. The silver content is indicated by the decimal fraction .900; fine silver often exceeded the official German requirement of .800. Throughout out the period of manufacture, the LK letters were reproduced in an ornate script style. The hallmark belonged to Louis Kuppenheim, of Pforzheim, Germany, a popular Art Deco craftsman who made silver between 1900 and 1940.
Confirm your identification with pictures of comparable silver work showing the same hallmark. Louis Kuppenheim was well known for his Art Deco style. Pictures of existing pieces available to collectors are nearly all boxes or cases of some kind. Your LK cigarette case is likely to be a Kuppenheim; your LK iced-tea spoon decorated with forget-me-nots remains a mystery.
Reach out to collectors' sites and forums for obscure hallmarks; not all of them have reached ever-growing reference books and sites. Provide as much information as you can, as clearly as possible. Another collector may recognise your piece.
Extend your search for old hallmarks to reputable antique dealers and museums. Museum curators have resources rarely available to laymen and your photos and drawings can be included in correspondence.
Avoid identification services that are slanted toward monetary value or purchasing your piece of silver. In this search, what is valuable to you is information.