History Behind Silver Markings

Silver Markings

*Please consider this disclaimer at bottom of page

Silver has been mined from the earth for thousands of years. Old World silver and silver markings have been traced back to modern day Turkey, as early as 4000 BC. But it wasn’t until around 2500 BC that we have solid accounts of the first sophisticated mining and refinement process of the precious metal known as “cupellation.” Since that time, civilizations have risen and fallen, each leaving their own characteristic imprint on silver before it became a valued currency in America. Due to the wide variability in purity, integrity and origin silver markings were developed to distinguish and verify each piece.

The Importance of Markings

Silver Markings

One of the most imperative distinguishments to make is whether the piece is sterling silver or if the piece is merely sprayed with a layer of silver atop another, less valuable, base metal, known as plating. Once you have determined if the piece is sterling or plated silver, other markings denote such valuable information such as:

–  Makers Mark; this is usually denoted by the silversmiths initials of the first and last name
–  Firm Name; often added along with the Makers Mark
–  Date; usually just the year the piece was crafted
–  Assay; this mark proves the piece was inspected and verified. It may also contain an additional standard symbol to denote purity. Silver is a soft metal and even sterling has a small percentage of another metal to give it strength.

Silver markings not only help collectors to identify key characteristics of the piece for valuation, they divulge a rich history, and to a collector, that is of great worth.

Silver Markings across Civilizations

Identifying the markings on a piece of silver is quite the task as there are hundreds of different symbols. Each civilization has created their own stamp and that stamp has evolved as different authorities have altered the design for various purposes such as taxes or even pride. Tracing them can be difficult for many reasons. Sometimes the pieces are well worn and the stamp has become hard to distinguish to an untrained eye. There are often minute details separating an assay’s mark, such as a small number or letter that helps to determine the value based on purity. Even if the markings can be clearly established, some of the registration records have been destroyed, making complete identification almost impossible to achieve in some cases.

No matter what type of piece; coin, flatware, tea sets or candelabra, there will be markings on it. If there are no markings, the piece is not valuable and could be fraudulent.

Each nation still has an abundance of well-documented markings to make identification possible, even if some of the markings have faded away with time. If you have a silver piece you would like to know more about, contact a knowledgeable professional who is familiar with the different eras and aspects of markings. The markings are what determine the value of your piece so it is important to have it identified correctly, whether you want to have it appraised for insurance purposes or if you are looking to sell the piece.

*Please consider when contacting us that we only purchase in the state of Florida: Sarasota, Bradenton, Venice, Tampa, St Pete, Orlando, Port Charlotte. Naples to name a few. Please look at our list on bottom of the home page. We do not purchase or appraise out of state.

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Silver Markings : Demystifying the Hallmarks

Your silver is worth money. But there’s so much more to it than that. Over the nearly 30 years that I’ve spent discovering fascinating new pieces I’ve taken it upon myself to try and share this deep appreciation of not only the value of some items, but the rarity, craftsmanship, history and stunningly brilliant beauty of the collections people bring to me.

And if that isn’t of interest to you, you’ll be interested in knowing that by being able to identify these traits can help assure you that you get exactly what your silver is worth.

Today we’re going to talk about Silver Hallmarks. Just a drop in the bucket, since this is an entire speciality of knowledge, but an excellent foundation.

Silver Hallmarks, Silver Markings:

Sterling Silver

Essentially every new silverware set, tea set, etc. you will come across is marked with a stamp called a silver hallmark. The purpose of a silver mark is to tell the buyer (or in this case, you) what the purity of the silver is. The most common markings for sterling silver are fairly easy to decipher:

Sterling

– 925 or .925

Sterling Silver

This indicates a 92.5% silver purity. Silver is often blended with other metals for increased strength. You may also see lower percentages of silver, such as 900 or 800. This indicates a lower percentage of silver and is no longer considered ‘Sterling’.

Fine Silver and Silver Plate

Fine Silver, quite simply, is composed of 100% pure silver. Pound for pound this is the most valuable silver you can find. We’ll learn next time what can give ‘pound for pound’ a run for it’s money. However, for today we’ll keep things simple. Fine Silver can just as easily be identified with the markings such as Fine Silver or Pure Silver. Rogers sterling (often marked Wm Rogers – and also indicated ‘Sterling’) is actually pure silver. Whereas Rogers plated silver is not.

Fine Silver or Pure Silver

Be wary of items marked as Stainless, Triple Plate, IS, Silver, EPNS and the like. These indicate that your items are made from stainless steel, electroplated, or are simply silver plated. While these may be beautiful items they are not all that valuable. You may simply want to keep them in your home for your own enjoyment.

Unique Markings

Here’s where things get interesting. Remember what I said in the beginning? There is so much more to Silver than it’s weight in… silver. You will not always come across a marking that is as simple to read as what I’ve outlined above. Markings from around the world vary in more ways than just the country it comes from.

There are literally thousands of these unique markings offering insight into:

–  The age of a particular item
–  Place or origin
–  Rarity
–  Manufacturer
–  Significance

And so much more.

For a quick example the image below is a silver marking from the Kirk firm, founded in America in 1815. Samuel Kirk introduced a unique type of repousse decoration that has become known as the Baltimore Style and as since become highly imitated. This marking indicates both the year, location, manufacturer and historical significance of the piece.

Kirk silver marking

I hope you found this all very informative and exciting! I look forward to sharing more of my appreciation and knowledge about wonderful works of silver soon. We’ll discuss markings from all over the world and the difference in significance between them.

If you’re eager to discover the true value of your silver right away, I always encourage people to consult a respected expert or two. You can also contact me directly and I’d be happy to answer any of your questions.