There is some uncertainty as to the origin of the term “Pound Sterling“. One source suggests it harks back to Anglo Saxon times (circa 7th century), when coins called sterlings were minted from silver; 240 of these sterlings weighed one pound, and large payments came to be made in “pounds of sterlings”.
One of the earliest attestations of the term ‘Sterling Silver‘ is in Old French form esterlin, in a charter of the abbey of Les Préaux, relating to either 1085 or 1104. The English chronicler Orderic Vitalis (1075 – c. 1142) uses the Latin forms libræ sterilensium and libræ sterilensis monetæ. The word in origin refers to the newly introduced Norman silver penny. Britain maintained a silver penny which were in circulation continuously until the creation of the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707.
The Oxford English Dictionary, says a sterling was a silver penny used in England by the Normans and date the term to around 1300. The early pennies were struck from fine silver (as pure as was available)
This is no proof of anything, but what do we know of the monetary practices from history. British silver had varying quality ranges and this could prove a problem if they could not assay a standard. The term Sterling Silver could have come from exchange merchants insisting on the quality of the silver the bank note promised to deliver to the bearer, after all carrying around pounds of silver to complete transactions was an open invite to thieves and robbers.
‘In the last couple of decades, waste dumps were scoured on a small and forgotten occurence of cobalt and silver ore that was worked at the start of the 18th century (around 1715). On the edge of the Ochil Hills, near Alva, in the “wee county”, Clackmannan, it is the richest deposit of silver in the United Kingdom.’
The purest silver to be found in the British Isles was mined in Alva which is just a few miles east of Sterling, where the metal would be assayed and stored or banked. Silver coinage was of varying qualities as silver for silver could vary by the silver to alloy ratios and certain unscrupulous people could trade lower content silver with countries that produced higher content silver coinage.‘
The History Of Coinage
Through to the end of the 7th century, no Anglo-Saxon coins had been minted in any metal besides gold.
The Penny Drops
The first pennies were all made from silver from about 680 to 1707. They were stamped metal in short supply and were region orientated. This practice of using silver was stopped in Britain in 1920 and by then the coin did not weigh true to silver value. But when the first silver penny was dropped from circulation by 1750 that was the first of the decline of a nations wealth. It was a common practice to cut pennies into halves and quarters until it became illegal to deface the coin of the realm. Short changing banks made coins that did not weigh the full shilling or keep the penny weight as the wealth was being short changed out of the nations pockets.
‘The first copper coins that Matthew Boulton minted for the British Government have become known as ‘cartwheels’, because of their large size and raised rims. His Soho Mint (created at his Soho Manufactury in 1788, in Handsworth, West Midlands, England) struck 500 short tons (450 t) of these penny and two-penny pieces in 1797, and further issued copper coins for the Government in 1799, 1806, and 1807. All together the Mint produced over £600,000 worth of official English copper coinage, as well as separate copper coins for Ireland and the Isle of Man.‘
The Shilling is one of the oldest coins and it pre-exists the penny and it was silver. One twentieth of a troy pound 12oz of silver it should have been a single pound could weigh down any pocket. This would make 240 pennies to the pound (the original penny weight) from twelve pennies to the shilling and twenty shillings to the early pound, Twelve silver pennies to the shilling, three silver pennies to the silver threepence (historically used in christmas cakes), six silver pennies to the silver sixpence, and all these coins weights being based on a percentage of the troy pound. Of Sterling Silver quality of silver. The other silver coins were the crown five shillings, four to the pound ¼ of a pound each as all money was weighed, a half crown or florin was thirty pennies or two shillings and six pennies. The silver content in coins of the realm up until 1920 was 92.5% when it was reduced to 50%. The use of silver in coinage except Maunday Coinage ended in 1947.
The troy pound was 12oz as opposed to the real pound that is 16oz a mere ¾ of the weight and value just another short changing measure, borne of exchanging practices. Why did christ kick over the money changers tables and stalls hmmm.
It is interesting to note that the pocket was an innovation that sewed the money pouch/purse into the garment for to defeat the stealth of the cut purse, probably with a button down flap, what a tailored solution to a problem, the single pouch pantaloons were common and the wealthy man had a matching pair. And of course this also gave raise to the need for belts to keep heavy pockets from dragging the pants of the man to his ankles.
The idea that ‘Sterling Silver’ came from the traders insisting that the British coins were assayed as being of ‘Sterling Silver’, is reinforced by the quality of the Alva mines silver content. Hence the term for quality as being of Sterling quality, the scots are still sticklers for standardizing methods and production. This assay quality of the silver from Alva became the standard by which all else was measured. Hence ‘Sterling Quality’.
The final note is really a question to George Osbourne is it more likely that: as the modern banks no longer mint coins with any silver content. Is the legend on the bank’s receipt note ‘promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of one pound of Sterling’ Silver, still relevant to the pound as it stands today,
But in the modern world where logos and emblems and even words are owned by their conceivers or creators. Has any other bank than a Scottish bank really got the right to claim the sterling quality of their service and to hold the heritage of the best produced quality of silver in this little isle. More of a right to the title, logo and all of the privileges that go with it, we could let you still lease the quote that you no longer pay the bearer said pound of flesh, but just exchange the notes for other notes or some light alloy metals of dubious value. After all the concept behind money was the idea that wealth could be retained as precious metal that had a set value, instead of bartering and the metal could be spent at a later date if a harvest was late or a cattle drive delayed by weather say. Then some lawyer coined the concept of the promissory note that was a receipt and this could save the cattle merchant that had to drive cattle to the market, or farmers that had to transport grain and produce over great distances from having to lug around great bulks of silver with them.
And further who holds the right to the ability to coin the phrase ‘Sterling Silver’ so who does own the castle these days, is that still in our hands or was that asset stripped by our invading neighbors way back in the mists of time.
What would be the foreign aid to an independent country seeking restitution for the asset stripping practices of an invading nation, land clearances et al. Doesn’t bear thinking about now does it George.
Is it not strange that a nation that used its silver as a surety of its wealth in coin distribution, has over the years as it has supposed to have ‘made progress’ and gained in wealth and stature, its money has been reduced to promissory notes and coins of dubious alloys with no intrinsic value of their own. Is that magic or just some sleight of hand.
It is also odd to note that when the English created the great union with Scotland as the propaganda would like to white wash invasion into, coincidentally in 1707, the Scottish shilling became only worth an English penny in exchange, odd when you consider the purity of the Alva silver mines, from the well known Dudley do rights that Scotland produces to the well know practices of the English abroad. Just who do you believe.
In the beginning silver was used by the Norse in ingots, and European counties that had the wealth from trading. The Anglo Saxons it seams set the gold standard right from the very outset. The distribution of silver as coinage was as much a statement of the wealth of the nation as anything else. This country no longer has coinage that reflects its wealth as the coin of the realm has been degraded to alloys and wood pulp, a well from great empire builders to the decimators of the coin of the realm in just under three hundred years. What does that really say about the business practices of this once proud nation, when our wealth was really in the nations pockets.
When metal could be distributed evenly across a nation was when the population was last small enough for that to happen, multiply the nations numbers to present day figures and remember that all the silver we have now, would not put a silver farthing ¼ penny in every man, woman and child’s pocket in this world. The limited amount of precious metal has finally been cheapened by over population.
Hows that for a pound of flesh George which nation has a greater right to the term as yours no longer honours the pound of silver. And this one has already given more than a pound of its flesh in the making of an empire, while yours has systematically asset stripped this nation and every subjugated nation in turn, then turned inwards on its own attacking the poor. Who’s reputation will cut it better in the open market, the nation of the fair minded or their invading neighbors, only time will tell eh George, probably time to think again man.