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What is Genuine Sterling Silver, marks and hallmarks.

Updated on November 4, 2013

Sterling Hallmark

British Sterling Hallmark
British Sterling Hallmark

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

An example set of antique (Sterling/British) silver Hallmarks.
An example set of antique (Sterling/British) 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.

The crown 1773 - 1973. The rose  1903 - present day.
The crown 1773 - 1973. The rose 1903 - present day.

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.


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    • profile image

      Bryan 3 years ago

      Thank you...

    • Gareth Pritchard profile image

      Gareth Pritchard 3 years ago from North Wales

      Hi Bryan, sorry but I am not great expert, I made this hub a number of years ago but have since lost interest, my only suggestion is to try and find a forum or something similar where people might have more info. A quick search using the search term ('et taj' silver) took me hear to this forum below.

    • profile image

      Bryan 3 years ago

      I have a silver tea set and the pieces are stamped with a crown and the words 'et taj' the rest is in a script that is possibly Indian (Tamal?) or North African? I am guessing. My research points to the idea that not all countries or time periods used 925 or etc to mark their 'sterling.' In early cases a crown signified the appropriate silver content - in other cases it may have signified that the tax had been paid. Can you help me?

    • Gareth Pritchard profile image

      Gareth Pritchard 5 years ago from North Wales

      Hi brown eyedcathy, sorry but there are hundreds of different marks and meanings so my best advice is to take a look at the links in the second comment on this page, where you can do some research to try and identify those marks and what they mean.

      Thanks, Gareth.

    • brown eyedcathy profile image

      Cathy 5 years ago from South Carolina

      I have purchased a sterling silver bracelet with the markings of a crown and the letters of P and D under it, what does that mean?

    • Gareth Pritchard profile image

      Gareth Pritchard 6 years ago from North Wales

      The second comment on this page has 4 links inserted into it and if you click on the 4th link, it will take you to a page the will help you identify and date of your silver. I cannot do more than that because I cannot see the marks you are talking about, except to say that the MV is a makers mark, the crown and the lion are Sheffield marks and the K is a date mark but it will depend on the shape and font.

    • profile image

      Kim L. 6 years ago

      I have a set of spoons (6) that have the folling in order: MV, crown, lion and then a K. Can you help me figure out. Liner in box says sterling silver. What time frame is this? Thanks so much,

    • Gareth Pritchard profile image

      Gareth Pritchard 6 years ago from North Wales

      Hi jalct, have looked at this page?

      Thanks for the question, I have no idea what it is you are describing probably because I cannot see it.

      Good luck in trying to identify this, Gareth.

    • profile image

      jalct 6 years ago

      I what to look like a sterling mini trey that does have several different hallmarks on the back and seem to be foreign also has lettering such as a college frat uses if that makes since and seems have the year 1371 on it also anyone have any idea what this can possibly be? I understand w/out actually looking at it it maybe very hard to say. But the stamps and stamp on it is a pic of a water picture with a bowl just above it n seems to be tilting to the bowl is a lil' cruet seems to stir and under the bowl is the numbers 1371 also has stamped '' no lead Easter '' or it may say '' no lead faster '' it is somewhat faded n a lil' hard to read with the naked eye.. I hope this can be some help? I appreciate any and all educated guesses.. There are three other markings that I can not make out nut to me look like ''Z15 '' when i look at it upside down but I'm very curtain that it is a foreign hallmark I have no idea if i have a $5,000 antique item or a .50cent item

    • profile image

      jewellery channel 7 years ago

      thanks for such helpful information...

    • Gareth Pritchard profile image

      Gareth Pritchard 8 years ago from North Wales

      Hi Sterling Sage,

      Thanks for getting back with your comment I did realize that you probably lived in the U.S. but I don't, so had no idea either about the precious metal authentication standard there in the U.S. any more than you did about the U.K. so now its quite cool that we do have a slightly better understanding.

      Believe it or not I really enjoyed writing this hub because it gave me a slightly better understanding of not just British history but the role Britain has played on the world stage in a financial verification capacity.

      Even the usage of the word sterling, being a symbol of worth, a word of unknown origin except for its use being coined by Edward Longshanks, who was King of England from 1272 to 1307.

      This King was a solider and he had an admiration for Sterling Castle because of its vantage point and also being surrounded on 3 sides by cliffs. Sterling Castle was a prize and symbol of worth, power, strength and endurance all the attributes of a great solider or great king perhaps in Edwards mind.

      Thanks Gareth.

    • Sterling Sage profile image

      Sterling Sage 8 years ago from California

      Myra and Gareth,

      I never realized silver was marked differently in the U.K.

      I guess I should have mentioned that I live in the U.S.

    • thecelt profile image

      thecelt 8 years ago

      Thanks for clearing that up, I was always curious what the difference was between silver and sterling silver.

    • myra636 profile image

      myra636 9 years ago from Viginia

      Hi I used to work in an Antique shop for about 6 yrs when I was young I feel in love with the old English silver not only the way you could trace the maker, year, even city. Here in the us you only get the word sterling or .925 So loved reading this hup thank you

    • Gareth Pritchard profile image

      Gareth Pritchard 9 years ago from North Wales

      Hi sophieqd,

      Interesting nugget about silver coins of the realm, British Silver Sterling or money as it once was in a fairly distant past, the coins where being trimmed because silver is soft. So as part of the devaluation of British Sterling Silver was to make the coins stronger to stop it being stolen from the Realm.

      That seems like one of the early credit crunches perhaps.

      Good Comment, thanks.

    • sophieqd profile image

      sophieqd 9 years ago

      Genuine Sterling Silver

      good article

    • Gareth Pritchard profile image

      Gareth Pritchard 9 years ago from North Wales

      Hi sophieqd,

      Thank you for the thank you and your approval,


    • sophieqd profile image

      sophieqd 9 years ago

      Genuine Sterling Silver

      thanx a lot for the useful info

      keep hubbing :)

    • Gareth Pritchard profile image

      Gareth Pritchard 9 years ago from North Wales

      Hi there, Sterling Sage,

      0.925 is the silver ratio with 0.075 made up of other metal yes and 925 is often stamped onto the silver as well as the other Hallmarks but on it's own 925 does constitute any kind of assurance that it is anything only silver in color or tone if in fact it is. The assay mark or hallmarks are as far as I know the only real identification marks of sterling silver, 925 on its own does not identify any authorizing body or mark of assurance from anyone that it is anything. To add to this also there are so many counterfeit goods on the market today that it would be difficult to prove that even the marks themselves are real without being able to identify records at the assay office. That is the reason why it is there in the first place to try and stop people from passing off any old polished metal as silver and to set a standard.

      Here below are some addresses for you to look at if you are interested in learning more.

      As for other metals being added I was always lead to believe that both silver and gold are not much good for anything on their own because they are too soft.

      Hope this answers some of your musings and thank you for your comment.

    • Sterling Sage profile image

      Sterling Sage 9 years ago from California

      FYI, most Sterling Silver products have a small stamp of "925" somewhere on them, even if there is no other mark. For example, the next time you think a spoon is made of silver, look at the back side of the handle. You can do the same with most jewelry.

      Pure (fine) silver is too brittle for most applications and corrodes faster, too. "925" means that 925 parts out of 1,000 are silver and the remaining 75 parts are other metals like copper and tin. The addition of these alloy metals makes the silver easier to work with, more durable, and more resistant to corrosion.


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