We list on this page some sources of identification of marks on silver wine labels, details of leading dealers and auction houses offering wine labels and other contacts of interest.
There are four remaining assay offices in the UK and one in Ireland, authorised to test silver for fineness and apply hallmarks to those items that pass the tests. Their websites give useful information about their history and the process of hallmarking. In addition there are databases of makers’ or sponsors’ marks at Birmingham and Edinburgh and an identification service at Sheffield. Clicking on any underlined sub Heading takes you to the website of that organisation
Edinburgh The Incorporation of Goldsmiths Archive Pages have recently been redesigned, now providing an excellent database with advanced search options including information on the now closed Glasgow Assay Office. There is access to photographs of the Hallmarks - you will need to login or register to use the database.
London The Goldsmiths Company has a fine website but it does not show makers marks. However there are two classic reference books on the subject: 'London Goldsmiths 1697-1837 Their Marks & Lives' by Arthur G Grimwade, commonly referred to as 'Grimwade; and 'The Directory of Gold and Silversmiths, Jewellers and Allied Traders 1838-1914' by John Culme, usually referred to as 'Culme'
Birmingham has a good, searchable online database On their website, click on ‘Heritage Hub’ on the Home page then select 'Early Silver Hallmarks' from the drop down menu. Lower down the page is a link to view the database.
The Standard written work is 'The Silversmiths of Birmingham and their Marks 1750-1980' edited by KC Jones
Birmingham Assay Office
Sheffield There are no images of makers’ marks on the Sheffield Assay Office website, but clicking on ‘The Library & The Silver Collection’ on the first page takes you their identification service.
Dublin The Dublin Assay office does not have its own specific website. However there are good reference books on Irish silver and marks, such as Irish Georgian Silver by Douglas Bennett and 500 Years of Irish Silver by Ida Delamer and Conor O' Brien
Other Assay Offices: There have been other Assay Offices in the past, in England at Chester, Exeter, Newcastle, Norwich and York and in Scotland at Glasgow. There are various books relating specifically to marks of these offices. In Scotland in particular there were silversmiths at other towns including Aberdeen, Dundee, Perth as well as smaller places such as Banff and Tain. In Ireland, there were labels made in Cork and Limerick. As with the larger towns, there are a variety of sources of identification for marks.
The classic book on English & Irish hallmarks and makers’ marks is 'Jackson's Silver & Gold Marks' edited by Ian Pickford. This is an extensively updated version of the original book. There are also a number of useful websites, including:
www.925-1000.com This website also has a silver marks forum, reached via the 'Resources' button at top right of the home page
www.silvercollection.it Another good site for marks. Scroll down to the bottom of the first page to locate the marks sections
www.silvermakersmarks.co.uk This site covers British marks
There are a number of dealers who have an extensive selection of silver wine labels and we list below several such dealers. This listing should not be regarded as endorsements of these dealers or recommendations but it does reflect the fact that all deal in labels and have, or plan to have, links to the Circle’s site.
MEMBERS OF THE CIRCLE
Antique Silver Spoons - Apart from spoons, also has a wide range of other collectable silver, including wine and sauce labels; established in the 1980s
J H Bourdon-Smith - Highly respected family firm founded by John Bourdon-Smith in 1951, with good range of silver including labels.
Mary Cooke Antiques - Specialises in eighteenth and early nineteenth century British silver and collectors items, including labels; founded by Mary Cooke forty years ago.
Schredds - Established in 1970 and now well known for a range of "inspired silver smalls" including wine labels.
Steppes Hill Farm - Established in the 1960s and specialising in collectors' silver, including wine labels, and also fine porcelain. Note that this site takes a little while to appear, due to the large number of high quality photos.
Silfren - Some 'bottle labels' included in a large online selection of antique silver.
Wine labels come up for sale at many auction houses in the UK. Several of the larger houses regularly include labels in their sales and we list these below, though we would emphasise that other houses also sell labels from time to time
Woolley & Wallis - Leading provincial auction house with a saleroom in Salisbury. Wine labels appear regularly in their quarterly silver sales and we understand they have part of a collection to sell in their October silver sale.
Lawrences of Crewkerne - Well regarded auction house in the south-west, including labels in their silver sales
Bonhams - Wine label sales usually at their Knightsbridge auction rooms but sometimes in Bond Street and outside London
Christies - Occasional wine label sales, usually at Christies South Kensington, London
Dukes of Dorchester - Include labels in their sales and sold a major collection in June 2012
Lyon & Turnbull - Edinburgh based but now establishing a presence in southern England.
Enamel labels - A collection of articles on enamel labels by Dr Richard Wells, probably the leading authority on the subject
The Silver Society - London based society with the aim of widening the appreciation and knowledge of work in silver, plate and other precious metals, both antique and contemporary. Publishes a prestigious journal 'Silver Studies' once a year.
The Silver Spoon Club - While concentrating on spoons, its magazine 'The Finial' has extensive illustrations of marks.