- What Do They Mean???
examples of fake hallmarks from the first design period have been
added to this section.
hallmark data below is the basic summary information (without photos
of the verified variations to date) on Spratling's hallmarks. Far
more complete hallmark information and easy to follow charts (as
well as techniques for determining authenticity) can be found in
our new book Spratling Silver: A Field
Guide. The information here on this website is designed
to provide the fundamental knowledge - but only the first step -
one needs to determine if the item is possibly a William
Spratling treasure. It will also provide information on any new
hallmark research, so check back frequently. We will also - from
time to time - add some photos of the questionable hallmarks that
you may want to be on the lookout for. You can learn more about
Spratling Silver: A Field Guide (and hopefully order it)
in our Book Store.
our initial reason for looking at hallmarks is so that we can determine
the name of the designer or silversmith. Too often, however, we
have assumed that any Spratling primary hallmark (the mark
which identifies Spratling as the designer) is a guarantee of authenticity.
Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Hallmarks
alone do not provide conclusive identification for any highly sought
after designer's work because they can be too easily copied.
Hallmarks are but one of the tools that we must use in determining
whether an item was designed by Spratling and actually produced
in his workshop during his lifetime. To learn about
the other tools we must consider when evaluating authenticity, refer
to Tips on Collecting.
In William Spratling's
autobiography File on Spratling he says "Worthwhile
silver requires that it be identified with the name and reputation
of its maker." Additional hallmarks
can provide information about the silver content as well as occasional
supplementary information. We are fortunate that our research has
provided information that now allows us to be able to use the variation
in the small hallmark details to assist us in identifying a date
range that the specific item was made as well as confirm details
that verify authentication. This information, although not included
on this website, can be found in Spratling
Silver: A Field Guide.
It is important to note
that Spratling insisted that every piece of silver that was
produced in the Spratling workshop should be hallmarked with the
Spratling hallmark/hallmarks in use at that particular time.
(It is conceivable that a few items did leave the workshop without
hallmarks, but their monetary value should be far less than appropriately
marked pieces.) Spratling's maestros and silversmiths never
included their own hallmarks or identifying marks on the items made
in his workshop Particularly in the case of jewelry made
with links, we occasionally find Spratling designs without a primary
Spratling hallmark, even though it may have secondary and/or
tertiary marks. It is possible that a former owner of
the item had links removed to make the item smaller, or to create
earrings and it may have been that missing link that bore the primary
hallmark. It is often impossible to determine whether
such pieces without a Spratling primary mark are missing
a link or are copies made during that same period. The prices
paid, however, for items without Spratling's primary hallmark
should be less than those fully marked.
William Spratling designed
and produced silver from 1931 until 1967. Circa 1933 Spratling began
to use a hallmarking system that he retained until his death in
1967. This hallmarking system included a primary hallmark
that identified Spratling as the designer of the item: for instance,
the mark WS Print. A secondary hallmark
identified the place of manufacture: for instance Taxco.
A tertiary mark specified the silver content of the item:
for instance 980. And occasionally, Spratling
used an other mark which provided additional information
about the piece: for instance Conquistador Shield.
Please note that these designations refer to the type of
information provided, not the location of the hallmark on the item.
Secondary and tertiary
marks were not unique to Spratling. For instance, the mark
Taxco or Taxco Mexico or Made
in Mexico does not assure this is a Spratling item unless
the primary mark is one of Spratling's primary
marks appropriate to the period. Likewise, the tertiary
marks 925 or 980 are not indicative
of a Spratling design unless the primary mark is an appropriate
Spratling mark. The dies used to produce these specific secondary
and tertiary marks were available to everyone who wanted
to purchase them. They are NOT indicative of a specific silversmith
or designer. You can see that the most important mark is the
primary mark because it is that mark that identifies Spratling
as the designer.
Over the last 30+ years,
many of his designs (and adaptations of his designs) have continued
to be produced by the Sucesores de William Spratling and even today
are available from them as new pieces. Recently, others have started
to produce "new" Spratling designs as well. But
we must remember that many of Spratling's designs were also copied
at the time Spratling was producing them. (He often said that
his designs had an "exclusive" time frame of only about
three weeks.) Rarely did those copies produced during the
1940s, 1950s, and 1960s also copy Spratling's hallmarks. Instead
those designs may have been marked with the silversmith's name or
initials, "Mexico Silver", or any other name. It has been
primarily during the last thirty years that Spratling's hallmarks
have been deliberately copied. (One of the easiest ways to
identify many non authentic Spratling items is to know what groups
of hallmarks (primary, secondary, tertiary, and other marks)
were used together. During Spratlings lifetime, he changed
the primary hallmark (and combinations of hallmarks) a number
of times. Usually such changes occurred when the company increased
or decreased its size or changed its structure or format. By knowing
when each hallmark (or hallmark grouping) was used, we can
then deduce approximately when a particular object was produced.
In addition, the dies used to stamp the hallmark on the silver item
needed to be replaced occasionally, and the variations in these
hand made dies also help to refine date ranges. For more
information about - and photos of - these variations, refer to my
book, Spratling Silver: A Field Guide
pages 31 - 33. Extensive additional hallmark information that is
not included on this website can be found throughout the book.
The photographs below
of hallmarks found on silver designed by William Spratling are arranged
in chronological groupings. These photographs were taken from actual
objects. Please remember that there will always be variation
in marks due to wearing of dies, slight differences in die manufacture,
amount and uniformity of the pressure applied when stamping,
etc. Some items may have several marks; others may have only one.
And the same design may be found with earlier or later "sets"
of hallmarks from the same design period indicating that
the design was produced over a number of years. As we continue
our research, we hope to be able to better understand the usage
of each of these marks and better determine the specific time frames.
We are grateful for your information and feedback!
Design Period: 1931 - 1946
These primary marks
pictured directly below are the earliest hallmarks Spratling used
and are arranged in chronological order. The time frame for
these three hallmarks was circa 1931 until early 1940. Items
with these marks were made of silver and occasionally included other
materials in the design. For specific information about what materials
were used in these early years, refer to Spratling
Silver: A Field Guide pages 30, 31 and pages 44 - 55. Circa
1939 was the earliest time that Spratling began to regularly use
amethyst in his designs, and thus, the earliest primary hallmark
we would expect to find on any Spratling design that includes amethyst
would be the WS Print Later . During this period,
Spratling also produced household items of wood, copper and tin.
Those hallmarks are shown later in this section and more information
- and photos of these other materials - can be found on pages 24,
25, 30, and pages 44 - 55 of Spratling Silver: A Field Guide.
Print Brand: Circa 1931 - 1933
||WS Print: Circa
1933 - 1938
||WS Print Later:
Circa 1939 - 1940
The primary WS Print
Brand mark (inspired by the brand that Spratling used on
his horses) was apparently used alone with no other mark. The primary
marks WS Print and WS Print Later
shown above were usually used in combination with one of the
secondary marks (indicating location) and one of the tertiary
marks (indicating silver content) shown below. The 980
tertiary mark was generally used on all jewelry and tea strainers.
Spratling said that 980 silver had a softer glow and complemented
a woman's skin when used in jewelry. 980 silver also is more resistant
to tarnish. 925 silver, because of its greater copper
content, has greater strength - an important factor when used for
household objects. The 925 mark generally appeared
on objects other than jewelry and tea strainers.
None of the secondary
marks (Taxco or Taxco Mexico) or the tertiary
marks, 925 or 980, was exclusive
to Spratling. Merely finding these marks on an item of silver
does not indicate that it came from the Spratling workshop unless
it also bears an early Spratling primary mark of WS
Print or WS Print Later.
Circa 1933 - 1940
Circa 1933 - 1940
1933 - 1940 Used generally on all objects EXCEPT jewelry
and tea strainers
1933 - 1940 Used generally on all jewelry and tea strainers
In 1940 Spratling decided
that he wanted his name "Spratling" (rather than just
his initials) to appear on each of his silver designs, and so he
created the primary hallmark, WS Print Circle.
This primary mark was used from circa 1940 until circa 1946
when Spratling y Artesanos ceased operations. The secondary
mark, Made in Mexico, appears to have been used only
circa 1942. Also in 1940, at the same time that Spratling
created a primary mark that featured his name in addition
to his initials, he created a tertiary mark that also included
his name:Spratling Silver. This new tertiary
mark was in use circa 1940 - 1944. During the transition period
circa 1940 when Spratling was changing from the tertiary marks
925 and 980 to the tertiary mark
Spratling Silver, applied plaques ( shown on page
27 Spratling Silver: A Field Guide) were often used over
the earlier marks on those silver pieces he had in his inventory.
WS Print Circle:
Circa 1940 - 1946
Circa 1940- 1944
in Mexico was used on jewelry in combination only with the
tertiary mark Spratling Silver. When
this occurred, Spratling Silver served as a primary
the authentic WS Print Circle mark, the letters surrounding
the circle were raised while the WS in the center was incised
(cut into) into the silver. The Spratling Silver letters
were raised in the oval cartouche. (The photographs do not
adequately show the difference between the incised and raised letters.)
In 1944, Spratling
discontinued using the tertiary mark, Spratling Silver,
and instead substituted the tertiary mark, Sterling.
The tertiary mark Sterling was used in combination
with the primary mark WS Print Circle from circa 1944
Circle: Circa 1940 - 1946
Circa 1944 - 1946
primary hallmark appears on jewelry designs manufactured
circa 1940 - 1944. These items are made of silver plated pot
metal and were designed by Spratling to be commercially produced
in quantity by the Victor Silson Company. Another version of
this same Silson hallmark has Patent Pending across the center and
was used prior to the final issuance of the actual patent. During
the period that Silson was producing the silver plated Spratling
designs for necklaces, bracelets, and pins, Spratling was concurrently
producing these designs in 980 silver and marking them with his
primary and tertiary marks of the period as shown
|Silson: Circa 1940 - 1944
In 1948, the Mexican government
decreed that the eagle hallmark was to be used for all items created
for export and would guarantee that the items was of sterling quality.
Within the eagle mark was specific number that was to be assigned
to each applying silver manufacturing entity. That number would
identify the silversmith or designer of that particular item. Silversmiths
or designers who did not apply for their own number could have their
silver items stamped with the "generic" eagle of their
community. Mexico City was assigned the generic eagle number 1,
Taxco was assigned number 3, etc. This system was in effect
from early 1949 until, we believe, circa 1979. The numbers within
the eagle hallmark that were assigned to Spratling and were used
in combination with the specific Spratling primary mark of
the period were 13, and later, 30, and
63 - all of which were specifically assigned to Spratling
for his use during very specific years. (Occasionally,
we find an Eagle 1 used in combination with Spratling's primary
hallmark. These items are either old Spratling designs (circa
1944 - 1946 that remained in a Mexico City retailer's inventory
until 1949 and were subsequently stamped with the generic Mexico
City Eagle number prior to export or, in each known instance to
date, was used on a single Spratling 1950 design.) These numbers
(13, 30, and 63) were never reassigned
to another silversmith. Thus, for example, even after Spratling's
death, the Eagle 63 was not given to another silversmith.
The number (and its authentic stamp) was retired permanently.
|Eagle 1: Circa
1949 - 1979. Generic Mexico City mark
||Eagle 13: Circa
1949 - 1952. Used only for the "Spratling/Conquistador"
30: Circa 1951 - 1965
63: Circa 1965 - 1967
Design Period: 1949 - 1951
Although none of the Alaskan
prototype models produced in 1949 was made available for sale, an
examination of those now in museum collections shows that the primary
mark that Spratling used for these models was the WS Script
In 1949, 1950 and early
1951, the primary mark shown below on the left was used
on a special group of pieces designed by Spratling and produced
both by Spratling at his ranch and by the Conquistador factory in
Mexico City. These items were also stamped with the tertiary
mark, Eagle 13. Each of the specific items
actually produced in the Conquistador factory in Mexico City also
was marked with the "other" hallmark: the trademark
used by Conquistador (a shield enclosing a horse
and rider). Both Spratling and Conquistador made the same
Spratling designs, so we often find two identical designs: one marked
with the primary Spratling de Mexico, tertiary Eagle
13, and the "other" mark Conquistador
Shield. The other of the same design would be marked
with the primary Spratling de Mexico and the tertiary
Eagle 13 only. We would then know that the item
without the "other" mark was produced at Spratling's
ranch, while the item bearing the "other" Conquistador
Shield was produced in Mexico City at Conquistador's factory.
|Spratling de Mexico:
Circa 1949 - 1951
Shield: Circa 1949 - 1951. "Other" mark used for
designs actually produced in Conquistador's factory
Spratling signed the original
contract with Conquistador on January 1, 1949. Conquistador was
to be responsible for all production and marketing of a special
group of up to 300 Spratling designs, and in return, Spratling was
to be paid specified royalties. Conquistador amended the contract
several times. (One change involved Conquistador's inability
to live up to the production quantities specified in their contract,
which was why Spratling also began to produce these new designs
at his ranch at Taxco el Viejo.) In November 1950, Spratling's
attorney notified Conquistador that Spratling was canceling their
contract because of Conquistador's inability to meet production
levels, lack of marketing, and probably most importantly, that Conquistador
had not made the specified royalty payments. Spratling's attorney
told Conquistador that they had permission to continue to use Spratling's
primary Spratling de Mexico hallmark ONLY for those
items in production at that moment. Nevertheless, Conquistador
continued to produce the Spratling designs until the contract was
finally cancelled. During the time from late 1950 when Conquistador
could no longer use the Spratling de Mexico mark until
the contract was actually cancelled (probably very early 1952),
Conquistador produced the Spratling designs using their own hallmark
as a primary mark with Spratling's tertiary Eagle 13.
It is likely that the later production of these Spratling
designs was not authorized, but collectors value these Spratling
designs marked with the Conquistador Shield Sterling Mexico
as highly as those marked with the Spratling de Mexico primary
mark. Conquistador also produced modified Spratling
designs as well as their own designs and used Spratling's
Eagle 13 tertiary mark along with Conquistador's hallmark
that spells out the name "Conquistador." These Conquistador
designs and items appear to be not valued by Spratling collectors.
More information about this period is found on pages 61 - 79 in
Spratling Silver: A Field Guide.
Shield Sterling Mexico Primary mark: Spratling designs used
circa late 1950 - early 1952
Eagle 13: Circa
1949 - 1952. Assigned to be used only for the "Spratling/Conquistador"
Design Period: 1951 - 1967
When the Conquistador
contract was finally cancelled, Spratling - who had continued to
produce his designs at his ranch in Taxco el Viejo - used the same
basic primary mark, WS Script, that he had used for
his Alaskan models. The Mexican government had withdrawn the Eagle
13 upon cancellation of the Conquistador contract. During
the period of time before a new Eagle mark was issued to Spratling,
he used the tertiary marks 925 Later or (rarely)
Sterling. For less than a year, Spratling also used
the mark Spratling of Mexico but because he apparently
was unable to register that mark in Mexico, he quickly abandoned
Circa 1951 - 1956
Mexico: Circa 1951
Circa 1951(or early 1952),
the Mexican government issued to Spratling the Eagle 30
tertiary mark (which replaced the Eagle 13),
and the Eagle 30 remained assigned to Spratling
until circa 1965.
Circa 1951 - 1956
Circa 1951 - 1965
By 1956, Spratling was
again permitted to register his name ("Spratling") in
Mexico to be used as a part of his primary hallmarks.
Spratling designed a hallmark that included "William Spratling
Taxco Mexico with .925 above his script initials. When the
die maker produced this stamp for Spratling, he enlarged the "S"
in Spratling so that it descended below the line encircling Spratling's
script initials. This mark became the logo Spratling used
for the rest of his life. We refer to this primary mark
as WS Script Circle S (because of the enlarged "S").
By 1962 Spratling's business was growing and his use of his hallmark
dies was increasing sufficiently that, because of wear, they needed
to be replaced. Spratling ordered new hallmark dies and the
stamp that the die maker produced was very similar to the WS
Script Circle S except that it did not have an enlarged
"S." We refer to that primary mark as WS
Script Circle. Both of these primary marks were used
in conjunction with the tertiary mark, Eagle 30.
WS Script Circle
S: Circa 1956 - 1962 Note the enlarged "S"
at the top of the hallmark.
Circa 1951 - 1965
Circle: Circa 1962 - 1964 Note the enlarged "S" does
NOT descend below the line as on the example to the left
Circa 1951 - 1965
In the mid 1950s, Spratling
agreed to design for the Pierre Marques Hotel in Acapulco, a group
of articles that included key tags, ashtrays, champagne buckets
and stands, martini pitchers, finger bowls, beer mugs, butter dishes,
crepe suzette pans, and coffee services. These designs were made
of silver plate and ebony. All included an applied nautilus design
that the hotel referred to as "The Pierre Marques Star."
The primary hallmark (and only hallmark) that appeared
on these silver plated items is shown below. None of these
materials has been seen in any material other than silver plate,
and therefore, no tertiary mark was used. Items stamped with
this hallmark were Spratling's designs, but the items were not produced
by Spratling. Photos of many of these designs can be found in Spratling
Silver: A Field Guide, page 97.
Marques: Circa 1957
Circa 1964, Spratling
again needed replacement stamps made. This time, the die maker
created a similar version except that the mark was more square than
round. Therefore we refer to this primary mark as WS
Script Square. (There are several authentic variations
of this mark.) This last Spratling primary mark was in use
from circa 1964 until Spratling's death in 1967. In 1964,
it too, was used in conjunction with the tertiary Eagle
30. However, circa 1965, the management structure
of Spratling's company changed, and due to this change, the Mexican
government withdrew the Eagle 30 tertiary mark and
replaced it with the tertiary mark, Eagle 63.
Therefore we find the primary mark WS Script Square
used legitimately with either the Eagle 30 or
the Eagle 63.
Square: Circa 1964 - 1967
Circa 1951 - 1965
Square: Circa 1964 - 1967
Circa 1965 - 1967
All items, including Spratling
designs, that have been produced since 1979 under the auspices of
the Sucesores de William Spratling are marked with the current
Mexican registry mark TS-24 along with a replica
of an older Spratling hallmark.
Spratling also designed furniture,
tin and copper ware, and gold jewelry. The following are
appearing on these varied materials.
Wood Print: Circa 1931 - 1946
||WS Wood Script:
Circa 1951 - 1967
Circa 1931 - 1944
Circa 1931 - 1944
Circa 1951 - 1967
There is currently a new
hallmark in use at the Spratling Ranch. The company,
William Spratling S.A. de C.V. (Sucesores de William Spratling), has recently created a line
of jewelry designed not by Spratling, but by Giulia
Modena. Her designs are crafted by the same artisans who are
also currently producing reissued Spratling designs. These new jewelry
designs do not carry the traditional Spratling hallmarks.
Each of the designs uses a newly created "Rancho" hallmark
as shown below. The bracelets, necklaces and earrings are
a synthesis of ancient Mexican motifs with Art Deco designs, and
are available for purchase in Taxco.
OF HALLMARK FAKERY
are seeing an increasing number of Spratling items bearing improper
hallmarks. In an effort to share information about those incorrect
hallmarks, I am including the photo of one of the "improper"
primary hallmarks circa 1940 - 1946 (on the left) next to
a "correct" one (on the right).
dies were used to mark the Spratling silver items, and each die had a different pattern of wear. Because of
this we may find many slight variations in the hallmark, but the
basics remain the same. The lettering around the circumference of
the circle was hand done and irregular. Contrast the correct hallmark
on the right with the regularity of lettering around the circle
in the photo of the fake hallmark on the left. The left photo is that of a hallmark
that appeared on several Spratling items offered at a Dan Ripley
auction in September 1998. After careful evaluation, it was
determined that the pieces stamped with this hallmark (photo on
left) had NOT been made during Spratling's lifetime, and those items
were removed from the auction. Thank you! to Dan
Ripley for having the courage to ask authenticity questions about
his auction merchandise and for his willingness to share his
information and his photos!
These two FAKE hallmarks
on the right have been found together on a number of pieces
of Spratling jewelry. These two marks were NEVER used together! They
are from two different time periods! This illustrates
why it is so important to know more about the usage and
time frame of each hallmark. It is not enough to just
see the familiar WS mark on an item. The WS Print Brand
mark has been seen only rarely and, in each case, was used alone.
This mark apparently has been copied from a photo in the book Mexican
Silver (page 33) by Morrill and Berk. The photograph as it appears
in the book shows the single WS Print Brand mark as
the only hallmark on a very early (and unique example) of a pendant
given by Spratling to Ms. Morrill's grandmother. Note the
perfect regularity in the letters in the oval cartouche Spratling
Silver. They appear to have been printed by machine
rather than the hand done letters in the authentic oval cartouche
shown earlier in this section.
in the photograph above on the right, the WS Print Brand
mark on the left has been copied from the photo in Mexican Silver.
The letters and numbers in the other marks appear to be machine
crafted rather than hand done. They are too precise and regular
and, again, are inappropriate for use with the WS Print Brand
Note the perfect
regularity in the letters around the perimeter of the circle in this
WS Print Circle mark shown on the right. The WS
initials in the center of this mark are another application of the
photo in Mexican Silver. The authentic WS Print
Circle mark has differently styled center initials.
The fake WS Print Circle
primary mark below on the left has letters that are fairly regular,
but the most obvious indication of this fake mark is the broad (more
horizontal) "M" in the words Made and Mexico. Contrast
it with the authentic mark on the right. The fake mark shows
two silver rivets that are a part of the construction of the particular
piece this mark appeared on. However those rivets have nothing
to do with the non authentic elements of the hallmark.
Hallmark Note the broad "M" in Made and in
Hallmark WS Print
Circle: Circa 1940 - 1946
None of the first design
period marks shown immediately above nor those on the left is authentic.
The spacing, scale, proportions, and the details of the letters
are unlike original hallmarks. Hallmarks alone are not sufficient
to judge authenticity. In each case the construction of the item,
comparison to verified authentic examples, weight, relationship
of the hallmark to the design, and analysis of the wear pattern
and patina are factors IN COMBINATION WITH the hallmark and hallmark
groupings that - when considered together - permit
a credible judgment of authenticity.
pictured above are only a very few of the fake marks we often see
in the marketplace today. It is not necessary - or even desirable
- to try to memorize each of these questionable hallmarks. As soon
as we learn to recognize these specific marks, those who are determined
to create Spratling items "designed to deceive" will fabricate
other questionable marks. It is impossible to keep up with every
variation of non authentic hallmarks. Rather, it is very important
to study the elements consistent in authentic hallmarks so that
we can learn to recognize those authentic marks from each period.
That hallmark information, in conjunction with the analysis of design,
scale, proportion, materials, weight, construction, and pattern
of usage will create the degree of connoisseurship that allows us
to feel confident as we build a collection of Spratling's silver
Please remember that
even "correct" hallmarks can be replicated. A study
of hallmarks is essential, but it is only one part of the puzzle.
Refer to "Tips for Collectors"
for other information about how to examine and evaluate an object
Certainly, a majority
of the Spratling treasures we find have authentic hallmarks.
Each of us, as collectors, has a responsibility to learn as much
as we possibly can about authenticity in patina, construction, design,
and hallmarks before we make a purchase. If we find, however,
that a purchase seems not to be authentic, don't be afraid to discuss
the matter with the seller.