The London Assay Office, where all silver has to be hallmarked as pure before it can be sold, took the unusual step this week of issuing a warning following the appearance on the market of a number of fake spoons.
It appears that a number of auctioneers outside London received consignments from one vendor who wanted to sell a number of small collectors’ items including trefid, caddy and double-ended medicine spoons.
The spoons were in unusually good condition but had hallmarkeds struck back to front or in the wrong place. Chemicals might also have been used to enhance the surface colour of the metal.
The testing and marking of jewellery and silverware to guarantee the precious metal content of an article has been carried out since 1300 and this, arguably the first form of quality control, is taken incredibly seriously.
The most common hallmarking scams use counterfeit punches or involve the transfer of genuine hallmarks by cutting them from an antique article and forging them in to a more modern one. Both are offences under the 1973 Hallmarking Act.
The relevant Trading Standards authorities have been informed and in an advertisement in the dealers’ bible, The Antiques Trade Gazette, the Assay Office warns “extra caution should be exercised if you are offered any spoon or serving pieces for sale, unless the provenance is irrefutable”.
Anyone who believes they may have come across similar items is asked to report them to the Deputy Warden, Assay Office in London, Goldsmiths’ Hall, Gutter Lane, London EC2V 8AQ, Telephone 020 7606 8971.