Where can I Look Mine up and What do they Mean

Today, silver’s applications in the world are beyond measure. But silver is not an inexhaustible resource. In recent years, mines have been unable to meet the current demand. To keep pace with the constant fluctuations of the supply and demand of the silver market, ‘old’ silver gets melted down and used again. This ‘old’ silver is known as scrap metal, but doesn’t necessarily equate to worthless. Markings on antique silver dictate its value. You may be asking where can I look mine up and what do they mean?

Determining your Silver Markings Value

Some antique silver marks make the pieces or sets invaluable to collectors. Some of the most highly sought after markings are rare in nature and can bring thousands to tens of thousands of dollars at an auction. Other markings may be more common, with less of a demand in the collector’s world. However, the demand for scrap silver may be higher and bring a higher payout. Here are the three main applications of silver in today’s global economy that influences the demand and value of scrap silver pieces:

stamp on a common vase

1. Industry. Silver is used in many ways due to its unique properties of being a durable and efficient conductor as well as corrosion resistant. It is commonly used in batteries, automobiles, switch panels, elevator buttons, traffic controls on railways, radiography and more to improve operations and make day to day living much of what we know it to be.

2. Investments. Silver is added to many portfolios as a way to diversify investments and capitalize on its enduring value as a precious metal. It can be invested in many ways, including tangible bullion, medallions and coins you can keep with you or by enrolling in accumulation plans based on stock values or trust accounts. Or, it may be the piece you have in possession today, when appraised by an expert, will prove to be a valuable asset as an investment.

3. Jewelry and Décor. Silver jewelry is one of the oldest ways silver has been used and will continue to be so as the chemical compounds seem to be suited perfectly. Craftsmanship is elegantly displayed and easy to showcase. It is also used in fine photography, your home’s insulation and even solar panel cells to reduce the carbon footprint of our generation.

As you can see, determining your silver markings value depends on a multitude of factors, not just the value established by a collector… although that can be the most important one.

Where Can I Find the Markings

Markings are mostly found on the underside or back side of the pieces so as to preserve the aesthetic quality of the craftsmanship. They may be found at the base of sculptures and candelabras or the handles of spoons and the back of platters. Coins may or may not have markings. Some are stamped with marks to denote sterling, but fraudulent markings are common with coins.

stamp on a spoon

What do They Mean

The truth is that there are over 12,000 different silver markings. They all tell unique historical details that a professional collector and dealer will be able to tell you what they mean and what value they hold. Having your piece inspected will help you to determine the worth of your silver piece according to the market and what it is worth to you personally.

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.