News-Antique.com - Jul 22,2010 - In Scotland, from at least the 15th century, a set of official marks were required to be struck on silver to verify the quality of the silverware wrought by Scottish
silversmiths. The centre for this was based in Edinburgh, and similarly to the English system the concepts were to ensure:
(a) the integrity of the intrinsic value of the silver and
therefore the coin of the realm was maintained; and
(b) that the identity of the silversmith who wrought the silver and the official who had certified it as being of the correct standard could be established.
However Scottish silver of the time was below the English sterling silver standard but had to be not less than 11 ounces (oz) of silver in every 12oz. weighed. As in England, the setting of the silver standard was a prerogative vested in the Crown (i.e. the Scottish Crown) and an enactment of 1457 required that each Scottish town or Burgh had to appoint a Dean or Deacon to assay the silver produced by the silversmiths in that area.
The Deacon had to have the first letters of his Christian and surname struck on the piece with the silversmith having to have his specific individual mark also struck on the piece. Any breach of this legislation on the part of either the Deacon or the silversmith would result in the death penalty.
In an enactment of 1485 the above marks were required to be supplemented by the striking of a mark identifying the town or Burgh where the silver had been assayed.(e.g. three castles for Edinburgh) This enactment also confirmed the weight of the Scottish silver as being eleven parts silver to one part alloy. However, fraudulent
transactions, such as selling sub-standard silver, remained a fairly common occurrence and in 1555 a further enactment was passed confirming not only the
official weight of the silver but also that any Deacon who allowed sub-standard silver to be officially marked, would incur the death penalty , in addition to which all
moveable property would be forfeited to the Crown.
In 1586 a Royal Charter was granted to the Goldsmiths Craft of Edinburgh, (later to become the Edinburgh
Goldsmiths’ Incorporation) and this body took on an enforcement role in policing the silver standard throughout Scotland, similarly to the role of the Goldsmiths’ Company in London.
In 1681 the Edinburgh Goldsmiths Incorporation adopted an annual letter which had to be struck on all silver goods, as a way of identifying the Assay Master who was in office at that time. However in Scotland this letter was changed in September, (as opposed to May in England) when the new Assay Master was appointed. The following year the Corporation authorised the removal of the Deacon’s mark which was replaced by the letters of the Christian and surname of the Assay Master. This
practice remained until 1759 when the Corporation authorised that the Assay Master’s mark be removed and replaced with a mark of the thistle. The introduction of the