What Is A Mason’s Mark And Why Are They Still Used?

Stone is one of the oldest materials that humanity has ever worked with, and from some of the earliest points of our history, stonemasonry has been an essential, enduring craft.

This would be one of the great catalysts for early civilisations, which would in turn start to shape not only stone but how stonemasons worked.

One of the most unique and mysterious aspects of the craft is the concept of the mason’s mark, which as a tradition dates back almost as far as the early civilisations that relied on the beautiful shaping of stone to exist.

Mason’s marks are distinct symbols carved into pieces of stone used primarily for identification, and their existence is a fascinating aid for tracing the history of individual stonemasons.

There were technically three types of mason’s marks, and two of these were far less common than the third.

The first set is assembly marks, typically consisting of some kind of numeric identifier and used to dictate to a builder where and how a stone should be installed into the whole to get the right effect.

These were also not exclusively used in stonemasonry, with tallies and Roman numerals regularly seen on timber frames, pieces of glass in stained glass windows and pieces of metal machinery.

Next is the quarry mark, which identifies where a stone came from, its destination, and in some cases its quality as well, in a process that is still sometimes seen in quarrying to this day.

Finally, and most commonly, there is the banker mark, which is the mark that identifies which particular stonemason worked on a given stone.

It was typically used when stone was paid by measure rather than by time and served as a clear and eternal indicator of which mason worked on which stone.

This process is sometimes seen today, although it is most commonly used akin to an artist’s signature and highlights particularly noteworthy or skilled pieces.