Identifying Russian Silver Hallmarks
The majority of antique Russian silver will be dated from around the end of the eighteenth century up to the beginning of the Twentieth century (1790-1930). The two main centres of production are Moscow and St Petersburg, it will be extremely rare to find anything from outside these two cities.
The hallmarks for these two towns are surprisingly English sounding particularly that of the Moscow mark which consists of St George and the Dragon. This mark was used by silversmiths in Moscow after 1741.
The mark for St Petersburg consists of crossed anchors and a sceptre.
Like any silver, dating is relatively straight forward as long as the markings are clear and visible. The date of Russian silver is normally put in full just underneath the town mark generally blended into the hallmark itself. the other common location is to place the date underneath the initials of the assay master.
From the beginning of the 20th century, there was a new system implemented which lasted until 1908 as follows. The mark then consisted of a standard and the town mark combined in an oval punch mark – from left to right -
- A number which referenced the standard
- A girls head facing to the left
- Assay Master’s initials (which can also be used to work out the town)
From 1908 the order changed again,
- The assay district or town represented by a Greek letter
- A girls head facing right
- The standard signified by a number
There were further changes over history – in 1927 a hammer was added to the girl’s head. In 1958 this was again updated with the head being replaced by the Soviet hammer and sickle emblem.
All the makers marks consist of Cyrillic letters and you’ll often find the full makers name instead of initials. The very best makers can be identified by the addition of the Romanov eagle usually above the makers name or initials. This was the sign of a very important silver smith and the piece will normally be much better quality and more valuable.