The London Assay Office is advising extra caution when buying antique silver following the assessment of spoons bearing forged marks submitted by four auctioneers last year.
The ATG understands a single vendor consigned what are very convincing items of fake silver smallwork through auction rooms in the West Country last summer.
The suspect items detected so far have been spoons – small collector’s pieces including trefid, caddy and double-ended medicine spoons of relatively modest value and are easily overlooked.
They are usually in very good condition with crisp, clear hallmarks. However, some of the hallmarks have been struck back to front, are in the wrong place or, on some pieces where one would expect to find just a maker’s mark, full marks appear. It is possible that the surface colour has also been chemically altered.
The Antique Plate Company, the industry-recognised body that examines suspect silver items and advises Assay Office London on the authenticity of hallmarks and illegal alterations or additions, rarely issues public warnings and are taking the matter seriously.
The most common hallmark forgeries use counterfeit punches or involve the transfer a genuine hallmark from an antique article to a more modern one. Both are offences under the 1973 Hallmarking Act.
Anyone who believes they may have come across similar items is asked to report them to the deputy warden, Assay Office London, Goldsmiths’ Hall, Gutter Lane, London EC2V 8AQ. Telephone 020 7606 8971.