The first hallmarks on Scottish silver date back to the mid-15th century and they were meant to ensure a certain metal purity and protect customers from dishonest craftsmen. It was custom for Scottish silversmiths to work the gold and silver brought by their customers, and many of them obtained illicit profits adding undue quantities of alloy to the commissioned items.
There have been two Assay Offices in Scotland: Edinburgh (from the 15th century and still active today) and Glasgow, from 1819 to 1964.
Irish and Scottish silver follow the main stylistic tendencies of English Georgian and Victorian silver. But 19th century Scottish silver is often characterized by a Celtic revival design, and the production of items relating to Scottish culture and tradition, such as quaichs (link to our quaich even if is London) and presentation snuff mulls.
Another distinctive element of 18th and 19th century Scotland is the flourishing trade with the East. This explains Chinoiserie decorations on Scottish ware (like on the caddy by Charles Bendy, dating to 1823) and why Chinese Export Silver is often hallmarked with Glasgow import marks (Wang Hing bowls).
Scottish and Irish silver appeal to collectors not only for historical and artistic reasons, but also because early items produced in Ireland and Scotland (in particular in Provincial towns) are extremely rare and sought after.
Scottish provincial silversmiths of the 18th century rarely sent their items to be hallmarked in Edinburgh or Glasgow, as it was supposed to. Instead, they marked the silver with combinations of repeated maker’s marks and town marks.