February 28, 2006


The marking of Navarrese silverware

Dr. Carmen Heredia Moreno.
University of Alcalá de Henares


The high price of silver was a continuous concern for the authorities in all the kingdoms of the Peninsula since the leave Age average, since any fraud in the handling of silver could cause serious damage to the municipal coffers and to the public treasury. In order to avoid abuses, control systems were established in three ways: Laws of the Kingdom, Municipal Agreements and Ordinances of silversmiths, which would give rise to the marking of silver.

Pamplona had its own marking system between 1400 and 1900 approximately. In Estella and Sangüesa it was marked during the XV and XVI centuries, in Tudela throughout the XVII century and in Los Arcos during the second half of the XVIII century.

The legislation dates back to the time of Charles III the Noble. In 1411 the monarch granted the people of Estella the privilege of marking silver with a locality mark, just as the silversmiths of Pamplona were already doing, and in 1423, by the Privilege of the Union, he ordered the destruction of the old mark of the burgh of San Cernin and the manufacture of a new one. From this date on, and in contrast to what was happening in Castile, the municipal markers were three individuals, representatives of each of the three burghs, who did not belong to the collective of silversmiths. The status changed at the beginning of the 17th century when the silversmith Juan Buil was appointed marker. 

Throughout the 16th century, the first nominative marks of silversmiths began to appear, accompanied or not by the locality mark. However, in spite of the successive silversmithing ordinances and the attempts of monarchs Philip II and Philip III for Navarre to adopt the system Spanish of three marks, the Navarrese silversmiths practically never used the marker's staff . The triple marking was not introduced in Pamplona until the 1788 ordinances, derived from those of Charles III of 1771, but the one that was added was the chronological marking.

As in the rest of the Peninsula, from the 16th century the position of marker coexisted with that of contrast, but both offices were named separately and had different competencies -marking silver and taking care of weights and coins, respectively-, although in some cases the appointment of both offices could fall on the same person. However, the union of these offices would not take place, legally, until the time of Fernando VI.

As was also the case in the rest of the Peninsula, unmarked Navarrese pieces are very numerous, but their absence does not necessarily imply that they were manufactured with leave grade, but may be due to the desire of craftsmen and customers to avoid paying the corresponding tariffs or to the complication that for a long time meant for craftsmen and markers the coexistence of silver of different grades: 11 dineros and 8 grains in Navarre, 11 dineros and 4 or 6 grains in Castile and 11 dineros in Aragon. Philip V imposed the law of 11 dineros for all the kingdoms.