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What is Genuine Sterling Silver, marks and hallmarks.
I ask you what on earth is Genuine Sterling Silver?
Not all silver is Genuine Sterling and some of it might not even be silver so how can you tell the difference because there is an important difference to be noted. First of all let’s look at the words (Genuine Sterling) this must be British because sterling is the term used for noting British money, British Sterling.
So this means what, does it come from Britain?
It does not mean that the silver is British but it does mean that the silver content has been quantified has having a content of silver to the value of 0.925 by a British Assay Office and will be stamped with a Hallmark to say so.
It will mean that it fills the British standard value of 0.925 parts silver. It will not mean it is British silver and could have come from any country in the world.
It will have been tested by a British Assay Office and be stamped with a Sterling Hallmark to certify that it has a silver content of 0.925. The British Assay Office marks will be like the example below.
There is more to this than just the British Sterling Hallmark for identification.
Please see a full Sterling Silver Hallmark dated 1796 below
Genuine Sterling Silver Hallmarks
1.Standard Mark, 2. City Mark, 3. Date Letter, 4.Duty Mark, 5. Maker's Mark.
As can be seen above these Sterling Hallmarks figure 1. do not exist on their own and are usually followed and accompanied by other identifying marks as shown.
Genuine Sterling Silver articles will have these marks stamped upon them for identification and authentication purposes.
All of these marks change over time but most notable are the city and date marks 2. & 3. shown above in the example, these change with time and place of testing.
Below please see a Genuine English Hallmark with the sterling mark in the centre, the crown and the lion in this order with the letter ( i ) would mean that it is a Sheffield City Hallmark of 1926.
Genuine English Silver Hallmarks
The two symbols of Sheffield Assay Office.
Sheffield City Assay Office is symbolized by the Crown and the Rose
There are two marks to look for to be certain that item(s) were assayed and marked in Sheffield they are symbolized by the Crown and the Rose. The Crown was used by Sheffield Assay Office to mark silver from 1773 up until 1973. In 1903, the Sheffield office was also allowed to mark gold as well as silver where the Rose was added as the gold mark. In 1973, after a period 200 years the Sheffield City Assay Office lost its Crown for marking silver and began to use the Rose for both silver and gold, which it does to the present day.
Quantification of the real silver content.
The number 925 is the quantification of the real silver content within the metal, it will usually mean that there is a content of pure silver to the quantity 92.5% in most cases but a reputable dealer will want it tested to be sure. A piece bearing this number is generally considered to be Sterling Silver but this really only means that it has a silver content of 0.925 which is the same silver content as established by the British Sterling Silver Assay Mark. Generally people will accept the 925 mark as a sterling silver mark but it is not. It is only potentially the same quality as Genuine Sterling Silver and to most people that will be acceptable but a reputable dealer will know the difference.
A video giving an example of how to do your own silver test.
Marks and hallmarks.
There are many different marks and hallmarks that have been used by British Assay Offices over the years. To identify the full extent of these would be beyond the scope of this page.
Below you can find links to other important pages that can help you identify your silver hallmarks.
The Sheffield Assay Office
- Sheffield Assay Office - HallMarking, Laser Marking and Analytical Services
Sheffield Assay Office specialise in the hallmarking of Gold, Silver and Platinum. We also perform Laser Marking of the above materials, as well as custom requests. We can also perform any Analytical Services which you require.
A guide to identify world hallmarks.
- Guide to World Hallmarks - Encyclopedia of Silver Marks, Hallmarks & Makers' Marks
Guide to World Hallmarks - Most extensive internet resource for research of Silver marks, Hallmarks & Maker's Marks - Foreign Hallmarks
British Sterling Hallmarks and makers marks..
- British Sterling - English Hallmarks, Irish Hallmarks & Scottish Hallmarks
British Hallmarks & Makers' Marks, Illustrated & Explained including the datemarks of England, Ireland & Scotland
A guide to false silver hallmarks.
- Pseudo Silver Hallmarks and What They Really Mean | WorthPoint
One thing that confuses novice collectors more than anything else is “silverware,” a term that one would think implied the item was indeed constructed of silver.