The first date mark was used in the 18th Century. Large towns used their own systems until a single national system was introduced in 1759. The first year received the letter A, the next year, B, and so on. After going through the alphabet, A was reused, but to differentiate this second run, the number 2 was added. For example, the year 1783 was marked, A2 (or 2A).
When Finland transferred to Russian rule in 1810, the alphabet and numbering was reset to the beginning, with 1810 being represented by the letter A. Currently we are on the ninth run of the alphabet; the 2016 date mark is P9.
Fineness mark history dates back to the 17th Century and the Oltermanni Line, when a content sample was taken from the precious metal object and checked. Only one fineness was initially used in gold and silver precious metal objects. Gold objects then began to be produced in several finenesses in the late 17th Century, and silverware in the mid-19th Century. When precious metal alloys begun to be made in different concentrations, fineness marks were official introduced. Silver fineness marks 13 and 13L (luoti) and 78 and 84 (Russian zolotnik) are in use concurrently. The silver marks that started being used were the old luoti measuring units of 13 and 13L, and also the Russian-style zolotnik units of 78 and 84.
In the 1890s fineness measurement swapped to metric and marks then showed fineness in parts per thousand; for example, the silver mark 813H. This means that the object was made of a mixture comprising of at least 81.3% silver (or 813 per 1000), the remainder most commonly being copper.
During the period 1895-2008 regulations stipulated that gold marks have oval base-form and silver marks rectangular. Since 2009, the base-form of fineness marks has been unregulated.
From the 17th Century it was customary that the elders of the trade, that is, Oltermanni, verified the precious metal content of objects. The first form of the inspection mark, or hallmark, was called the Oltermanni Line and had a sawtooth pattern made by the Oltermanni gouging the test object.
The Oltermanni Line was replaced nationally in 1754 by a three-crown hallmark. When Finland came under Russian rule the three-crowns hallmark became a single crown in 1810. This crown mark is still in use as the Finnish hallmark.
Previously, from 1925 to 1998, the same hallmark was used for imported goods, but with the addition of an oval base. Export goods were, in turn, marked with the crown on an angular base from 1974 to 1998.
Some objects may have been manufactured using silver, but also using less expensive metal alloys that look like silver. Such objects are usually distinguished by special marks. The most common silver-looking alloy is alpacca, whose trade name of 'new silver' is often a bit of a misnomer and has many names with variations of 'silver' (see below). The nickel in these alloys usually gives it its silver colour. Often alpacca objects have a silver-plated surface, but brass alloys can also be plated with silver.
This page contains a rare mark discoveries and other specialities.
Symbol marks are, as the name suggests, different looking shapes such as, for example, the Kultakeskus lion. The group also includes monograms and letter marks for the years 1940-2000, which were used for common block letters and differed from flowing handwritten letter forms, such as the Goldsmith School's letter K.
Join us at the Fiskars Antique Fair. We will be checking marks, and sharing our knowledge in the Veitsihalli.
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