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A most unusual and rare, Victorian, solid silver stamp case. The case has two pieces, one slides into the other to create a firm case. The style is a lovely plain polished silver on both sides. Each piece shows the clear hallmarks for the London Assay Office with a date mark for 1897. There is also the retails mark George Maurice & Co 44 Piccadilly W. The maker's marks are for the silversmith W & G Neal.


A question staff are often asked at Woodbridge Antiques Centre is ‘how do I know if this is silver?’ So, here is a brief guide.

What is hallmarking?

Silver is never completely pure. Like gold, it is a soft metal and needs to be mixed with other metals to make it stronger. In Britain the most common grade of silver is 925 known as ‘Sterling silver’, the most popular grade around the world and so-called because it is 925 parts per thousand silver, the other 75 parts being other metals. To ensure that a piece has the correct amount of silver in it, it is sent to an assay office where the piece is tested and stamped with a hallmark.

Hallmarking is probably the oldest form of consumer protection, dating back to the 1300s! A hallmark is really an independent seal of approval. Great Britain is lucky to have one of the best hallmarking systems in the world, so it is possible to date and identify the maker of a piece of silver and the location it was assayed. There is another grade of silver for British pieces which is Britannia this is 958 parts per thousand silver and has a different symbol. There are also different grades and symbols for other countries but we will be focusing on identifying British sterling silver.

What to look for on your piece:

First you need to find your marks. Sometimes they will be quite obvious, on the back of cutlery or on the base of an item, but sometimes they are hidden within a pattern so you may need a magnifying glass to hunt for them. 

The photos show a silver button hook with a Mr. Punch head. The hallmarks are shown with arrows - as you can see they were quite difficult to spot.

Once you have found them it’s time to identify them: This set of hallmarks are very clear so we'll use these. 
The most important symbol to look for is the lion passant (1), which identifies your piece as being sterling silver. Now look for the town hallmark: in this photo we see the anchor (2), denoting it was assayed in Birmingham. The date letter ‘k’ (3) indicates it was assayed in 1909, and finally the maker’s mark (4) shows that it was made by Jones & ​Crompton.

Common town marks are London, Birmingham, Chester, Sheffield, Edinburgh and Dublin. The designs have changed a little over the years but typical marks are shown in the photo.

Silver plate

Silver plated pieces are made from base metal which can be nickel or copper with a layer of silver applied. These can also have markings that look a bit like hallmarks. Look out for the letters EP or EPNS which stand for electro plate or electro plated nickel silver. It may also have the marking A1 or B1 which denote for the quality of the silver plate.

It is also a good idea to look for signs of wear. Silver will tarnish and may have grey or black marks but underneath if you polish it, it will return to a shiny surface. With silver plate you may be able to see a yellow hue to the metal where the base metal is beginning to show through the layer of silver. This usually occurs where the silver has been worn away by repeated cleaning.

This is a little insight into the big world of hallmarks.


Pair of Japanese bronze scroll weights modelled as sections of bamboo with silver leaves and various animals.  Dating from the Showa period.

These very attractive items were used as weights to hold down scrolls which were being decorated.


A lovely example of a Victorian Ebony & Brass Quill Cutter, which would have been a prized item in a Clerks' office.

There are three main components comprising: The quill cutting end, the penknife for sharpening and on the side a nib cutter to enable the user to choose between a fine or broad nib.


We had a lovely time when antiques expert James Braxton returned for his 3rd visit to us filming for the latest series of the popular BBC programme Antiques Road Trip.

First shown in 2010, each episode features two antiques experts who travel around the country in a vintage car competing to buy and sell antiques to see who makes the most profit. In the first episode of their road trip James Braxton will be competing against Izzie Balmer driving around Suffolk in an eye-catching red MGBT.

Due to air this autumn, the programme begins in Woodbridge, Needham Market and Ipswich and finishes with the auction in Tring Market.

James Braxton and Izzie Balmer began the day filming outside the Tide Mill and other sights around the town before James Braxton visited Woodbridge Antiques Centre in Quay Street, where Natalie Smith, the shop proprietor, showed him a variety of pieces from their thirty cabinets in order to help him select the best items to sell in a forthcoming auction.

The show will be broadcast this autumn so make sure you tune in to find out how he gets on. 

Guess the item answer - Summer 2018 newsletter:

The answer is ...

A beautiful carved wooden pin cushion that can be attached by the screw to the edge of a table, armrest or sewing box. 

Guess the item answer - February 2018 newsletter:

The answer is ...

A beautiful Victorian ladies' Sewing Etui with carved mother of pearl ​handles.  Often used for travelling, and carried by Ladies or their maids, the Etui contains all the necessary items for making alterations, etc. On the side is the registration mark for 1874. 

​Woodbridge Antiques Centre on Antiques Road Trip. 

The episode of Antiques Road Trip  showing when Catherine Southon visited us last year aired on BBC1 on 24th January. Don't worry if you missed it, you can watch it on the BBC iPlayer now: ​​​

We were really excited to celebrate our 10th Anniversary this year!

I can’t believe how quickly time has flown since we first opened in November 2007.  Many thanks to all of you who were able join us for the anniversary party on Saturday, November 4, where everyone enjoyed a glass of fizz and a piece of cake and were presented with goodie bags. Much fun was had by all who visited and resulted in a very pleasurable day. 

I would also like to say a big thank you to all of our customers who have supported us over the years, and we look forward to the years ahead.

Here are some pictures from the event:

Guess the Item - Answer:

Clever little bakelite pin holder, push the top down and a pin pops out the top!

Guess the Item - Answer:


Dating from the Meiji Period (circa 1890) this lovely silver box is made in the form of a traditional Geisha sandal - the top section of the box would store cards and a drawer in the side held dice (dice still in drawer).​​

Summer Fairs

We'll be at the following events this summer, so be sure to visit us and say "Hi" if you're around, we'd love to see you.

Sunday, 13th August - Newmarket Racecourse Antique and 20th Century Fair

Sunday, 3rd September - Alexandra Palace Antiques & Collectors Fair

Friday 29th September & Saturday 30th September - Peterborough Festival of Antiques



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Hester Bateman (1704-1794) is one of the best known English silversmiths whose work has touched the hearts of generations of collectors. One of the main reasons may surprise you if you are not aware that Hester is usually a female name. Yes - Hester Bateman was a woman and the mere fact that she was able to work at all in a field which at that time was completely dominated by men is an achievement in itself.


Hester Bateman Sauceboat, London 1779. 

Born in 1704, the daughter of John and Elizabeth Needham, she married a goldsmith named John Bateman in 1732 with whom she had six children. John Bateman died in 1760 leaving all his household goods and his tools to his wife, so Hester went into business under her own name, registering her maker’s mark ( a simple “HB” script) at Goldsmith’s Hall, London on April 16th1761.

With her sons, Peter (1740-1825) and Jonathan (1747-1791) she continued to run the family business until she retired in 1790 at the age of 86. Hester had a great deal of business acumen and achieved considerable success within her own lifetime, partly by using techniques and machines which were at the forefront of technology at that time and by using thin sheet silver that enabled her to keep costs down and compete with companies producing Sheffield plate. The family specialised in household silver in a neo-classical style and their work often features bright-cut engraving, piercing and beading round the edges. Hester Bateman’s attention to detail and the quality of her work have earned her a place amongst the finest English silversmiths.

hester-bateman-spoonsPair of Hester Bateman Silver Table Spoons, London 1790 

Hester Bateman's "HB" maker's mark seen on one of the table spoons pictured above. The rest of the hallmark shows (from left): the Lion Passant for sterling silver; the Leopard's Head wearing a crown for London (the crown was deleted from the London mark after 1820); the letter P for 1790; and the Sovereign's Head (George III) showing that duty had been paid on the item (used between 1784 and 1890).

Hester died in 1794 at the advanced age of 90. She was the first and most famous silversmith in a dynasty of four generations. When she retired, her sons Jonathan and Peter registered their own mark - the letters PB over IB – but, since Jonathan died in 1791, this mark was used for only six months and silverware bearing it is extremely rare today. After Jonathan’s death, his widow Ann Bateman continued working with her brother-in-law, Peter. On his uncle’s retirement, Jonathan and Ann’s son William (1774-1850) took over the business in 1815 and eventually passed it on to his own son, also named William. He was to be the last silversmith in the family: the business finally closed in 1840.


The rare maker's mark of Hester Bateman's sons Jonathan and Peter on the base of a silver pillbox. Showing the letters PB over IB, this mark was only used for six months due to Jonathan's death. Silverware bearing these marks are sought-after collector's pieces.