A mark used on ceramics, painted, impressed, moulded, or printed, to indicate the name of the company which produced the piece and sometimes the country of origin. Some marks can include the name of the designer, painter, or modeller. Factory-marks are a useful tool in dating an item, as usually marks were only used at certain times and may include a code to determine the exact year. Marks were first applied in Italy in the 15th century, but their widespread use began in the 18th century. The Meissen factory, with its crossed swords mark, was the first to mark pieces consistently. During the 19th century factory-marks became common throughout the world and by the end of the century were required by law.