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Today the only assay offices that are left open for silver hallmarking are London, Birmingham, Sheffield, Edinburgh, and Dublin. The alphabet cycle is used to indicate the date of manufacture.

Until 1742 only silver items were made in Britain but then a process was invented to fuse sterling silver to copper and the Old Sheffield Plate industry started to develop.This standard became known as Sterling silver and, in order to be struck with a sterling silver mark, any object had to be sent to, and tested by, the wardens of the goldsmiths guild at the London Assay Office.This system probably represented the first form of consumer protection world wide.Later, in 1478, a further mark known as the date letter was added.This date letter changed each year and has proved to be of enormous value giving an accurate guide to the year in which an item was made.

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