We recently went through and talked about the different types of silver and their marks. Now we are going to learn how to read these marks and go into more details on some of these terms.
So, let's start with a little refresher. As you may remember, the hallmark (or mark) is the stamp on the silver that tells you the content of the metal. According to ModernSilver.com, the hallmark MAY include a makers mark but a maker's mark alone is not considered a hallmark.
As we discussed last time, the mark "925" signifies "sterling silver," So basically this means that 92.5% of that item is made of silver and the rest is another metal. In America, this has been the ratio used as the standard since the mid-1860s. According to RealorRepo.com, the bulk of silver made in the US between 1860 to 1970 (especially before 1940) will be marked "sterling" or "sterling silver". Again, they point out that this does not mean that all pieces marked "sterling" or "sterling silver" are old. It does mean, however, that most pieces marked 925 are going to be modern. So helpful, right?
According to ModernSilver.com, the French have the most complicated system of marks. Apparently the French do not use numbers and instead use symbols (animals, insects, birds, etc) to indicate the content of silver. It is pretty difficult to memorize all the symbols. You may want to bookmark French marks on your phone for a quick reference when you are out and about.
A typical English hallmark will have 4 symbols (maybe 5...a symbol of the king or the queen ruling during the time it was manufactured) and they are in no particular order.
Town Mark: a symbol for where the silver was certified (London would be a leopard's head)
Date Letter: a symbol for the year it was manufactured
Maker's Mark: a symbol for the silversmith
Standard Mark: this symbol guarantees the silver content. For British marks it is going to be a symbol of a lion facing the left. This certifies it is 92.5% silver.
A few things to note here. According to RealorRepro.com, a control mark (a symbol in the form of scales) was adopted in 1976. This was a treaty among nations where they agreed to recognize each other's hallmarks. The standard mark can now be expressed as 925.
This is really just the tip of the iceburg. To learn more about the marks in other countries and to get a better idea of how to spot a reproduction or a fake...I really suggest this article. Also, here is a great article that gives more detail on British marks.
Also, follow me on Pinterest! I am putting together reference boards for all of this to make these symbols easier to understand.
And finally, I am certainly no expert in this. If you have any corrections, suggestions or thoughts....please let me know! Like I have said before, this is a blog for learning and I want to make sure that is exactly what we are all doing!