English silver dating marks
The multi-tiered motif of the CCM is the balance scales, superimposed, for gold, on two intersecting circles; for platinum, a diamond shape and for silver a mark in the shape of the Latin letter "M".
This mark is recognized in all the other contracting states, including: Austria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Great Britain, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and Ukraine (see links below).
From the Late Middle Ages, hallmarking was administered by local governments through authorized assayers.
These assayers examined precious metal objects, under the auspices of the state, before the object could be offered for public sale.
By the age of the Craft Guilds, the authorized examiner's mark was the "master's mark", which consisted frequently of his initials and/or the coat of arms of the goldsmith or silversmith.
At one time, there was no distinction between silversmiths and goldsmiths, who were all referred to as orfèvres, the French word for goldsmith.
Within a group of nations which are signatories to an international convention known as the Vienna Convention on the Control of the Fineness and the Hallmarking of Precious Metal Objects, additional, optional yet official, marks may also be struck by the assay office.
These can ease import obligations among and between the signatory states.
Many nations abide by the Vienna system and procedures are in place to allow additional nations to join the Vienna Convention.
In England, the year of marking commences on May 19, the Feast Day of Saint Dunstan, patron saint of gold- and silversmiths.
In other nations, such as Poland, the hallmark is a single mark indicating metal and fineness, augmented by a responsibility mark (known as a sponsor's mark in the UK).
A hallmark is an official mark or series of marks struck on items made of metal, mostly to certify the content of noble metals—such as platinum, gold, silver and in some nations, palladium.
In a more general sense, the term hallmark can also be used to refer to any distinguishing characteristic.