I’m not sure what happened in Norway in the early 1870s, but whatever it was, someone felt the need to commemorate it.
I picked up this little silver shot-glass or beaker while I was at the local flea-market last week. It was in reasonable condition, it was cheap, and it had a lot of pretty engraving on it. It had a series of hallmarks struck to the base, but beyond the fact that it was silver, the seller couldn’t tell me a thing about it.
Decoding antiques can be a real challenge, and this shot-glass is a classic example of that. Even without the label on the item declaring it to be silver, I had already guessed, given the tarnishing, but also, the symbols stamped on the base:
Given the layout, the number of them, and the inconsistencies in the stampings, I deduced that they were hand-struck hallmarks, but not of any kind which I recognised. On a hunch, I bought the shot-glass, took it home, cleaned it up a bit and pressed out the dents, and then started researching the marks.
The cup came with a hand-engraved inscription on the rim, and translating this was my first clue. It read:
“Erindring af mine Brodre“. Typing this into Google Search revealed it to be Norwegian: “In Remembrance of my Brothers“. After that, I started researching Norwegian hallmarks.
European hallmarks have a very distinct pattern. They typically come in groups of four, or five. A set of marks on a piece of silver will normally consist of an assay mark, a date letter, a maker’s mark, and a purity or fineness mark. Depending on where the piece was made and marked, it might also include import or export marks, taxation marks, etc.
The first mark to be uncovered was the seven dots in an oval (on the right). This was the assay mark for the town of Bergen, in Norway.
The second mark I deciphered was the ’13 1/3′. This was a reference to 13.3/16 LOTH.
In the 1700s and 1800s, European silver was divided into grades called lothiges (commonly shortened to just ‘loth’). Silver was graded according to purity on a sixteen-point scale. It started at 16, then went down to 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, and finally, 10 loth. Apart from Norway, the loth system was also commonly used by Germany, Austria and Prussia.
From top to bottom, these grades were:
So, I had a roughly 81% purity, silver shot glass made in Bergen, in Norway. But how old was it? Here I turned to two more marks. One was ‘6M’, and the other ’71’. These stood for June (the sixth month) of 1871.
The last mark were the initials PD, which made up the maker’s mark. The trail of research ran cold here, but I had enough to know all the basic facts about the shot glass. It might be small, and old, and battered, but I think it’s beautiful. After all, it’s not every day you can claim to own a piece of antique Norwegian silver!