Hallmarks are indicators of the precious metal content--often gold, silver or platinum--used to indicate the purity of a piece of jewellery or other metal object. Hallmarks are different than maker marks, which are manufacturer brands on metal pieces. The term hallmark comes from “Hall of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths,” the manufacturer of the first hallmarks in Britain centuries ago, according to Christie Romero in her book, "Warman's Jewelry."
The sterling standard for silver in Britain, dating back to the 13th century, sets 92.5 per cent as the minimum concentration of silver contained in a valuable silver object. In England, the hallmark for sterling silver is a Lion Passant (a lion walking); in Scotland, it's a Lion Rampant (rared up on its hind legs). In Ireland, the sterling silver hallmark is harp with a crown above it.
Brittania silver has a silver concentration of 95.84 per cent. Its hallmark is the image of woman called Brittania. The introduction of Brittania silver in England in 1697 was an attempt to limit the melting of sterling silver coins. However, sterling silver was approved for use again in 1720, and Brittania silver remained as an optional standard. As of Jan. 1, 1999, Brittania Silver is also known by the numeric hallmark 958; the Brittania image is no longer mandatory.
Numbers also have been used as hallmarks to denote the purity of silver used. In numeric hallmarks, sterling silver is usually represented by the numbers 925. Other numeric hallmarks for silver, depending on its purity, include 800, 935 and 980. Numeric hallmarks were chosen because symbol hallmarks are hard to decrypt.
French Boar Head
The boar head hallmark is a French hallmark for silver with a purity of 800 or greater. The boar head was used by the Assay Office in Paris between 1838 and 1961.