About silver

About antique silver

General information

Dutch silver objects produced before 1813 were marked with one or more of the following marks:


- maker's mark

- city mark

- date letter

- purity mark

When an object has the above mentioned marks it is in most cases relatively easy to asses where, when and by whom the object was made. The location of the marks on the objects depends upon the type of object. In case of forks and spoons the marks were put on the rear side of the handle. In case of boxes, bowls etc. the marks were put on the bottom plate or on a flat surface. In case of memorial and birth spoons the marks were in most cases put on the rear side of the bowl.

Little objects are often only marked with a maker's mark, sometimes in combination with a city mark and/or date letter.

Maker's mark

Since the 14th century guilds for silver- and goldsmiths are mentioned in city records in cities of Dutch provinces. The silversmiths marked the object produced by them with their maker's mark. This maker's mark was a guarantee for the quality of the silver object produced. The maker's mark used initially was a symbol or a figure. Later on the maker's mark had a relationship with the name of the silversmith (e.g. initials of his name),  the house of the silversmith or otherwise. The maker's mark was put on by the silversmith himself.

City mark

The city mark was introduced in the 15th century. This city mark was often similar to the city coat of arms. For instance the city mark of Amsterdam contains the three saltires (identical to the city coat of arms), for the Hague the stork was used. But also other city marks were used. In Dordrecht the silversmiths used the rose as their city mark, which has no connection to the city coat of arms at all. The city of Groningen used a very specific city mark: a combination of a numeral and letter. This combination was also used as a date letter. The city mark was put on by the assay master, who was appointed by the guild members.

Date letter

The date letter (a numeral based on the alphabet) was introduced in the beginning of the 16th century and was put on by the assay master. The date letter was not only a guarantee for the quality of the silver object, but can also be contributed to a specific assay master in a particular year. At the end of each year the guilds appointed a new assay master and the date letter was adjusted.

From 1813 on one uniform system of date letters was applied for the Dutch Kingdom.

Purity mark

From the middle of the 17th century the marking of the quality of a silver object was introduced by using a purity mark. For the 3 provinces Holland, Friesland and Zeeland a crowned lion was used to identify the "grote keur" (93,4% silver) of the object. The province of Holland used a crowned mark consisting of a walking lion looking left, the province of Zeeland used a crowned mark containing a lion rising from the waves and the province of Friesland used a crowned mark with two lions, below each other. For the city of Utrecht the "grote keur" was indicated by doubling the silver mark in the silver object. For the city of Groningen the city mark as well as the maker's mark were put on twice. For objects produced in the city of Nijmegen the "grote keur" was indicated by adding a crowned letter "N" as a purity mark.

For object of the "kleine keur" (83,3% silver) a number of cities used a combination of a city mark and a date letter.

Like to know more?

Would you like to know more about the above mentioned subjects? Reference books are a.o."

"Goud- en Zilvermerken van Voet", by L.B. Gans and "Dutch goldsmiths' and silversmiths' Marks and Names prior to 1813", by K. Citroen.

Furthermore there are specific reference books and catalogues about silver from specific  Dutch cities with information about the maker's marks , city marks and date letters.