Silver Purity Hallmarks
- Silver Purity Measurements
- Sterling Silver
- Commonly found Sterling Silver hallmarks
- Older European Silver hallmarks
- Other Silver Hallmarks
- [ Russian and Soviet Silver Hallmarks >> ]
- [ Alpaca or Nickel Silver - other Metals Called "Silver" >> ]
Silver purity is measured in fractions of 1000.
List of most common silver purity standards (standards with confirmed numeric hallmarks are in bold):
- 999.9 (Ultra-fine silver used by Royal Canadian Mint in the Canadian Silver Maple Leaf)
- 999 (Fine silver used in Good Delivery bullion bars, also known as three nines fine)
- 980 (common standard used in Mexico ca.1930 - 1945)
- 958 (equivalent to Britannia silver)
- 950 (equivalent to French 1st Standard)
- 948 (Russian "91 zolotnik")
- 937 (Russian "90 zolotnik")
- 925 (equivalent to Sterling silver)
- 920 (French?)
- 912 (Russian "88 zolotnik")
- 900 (equivalent to Coin silver in the USA, also known as one nine fine)
- 875 (Russian "84 zolotnik" – most common on Russian silver jewelry from 20th century; it's most probably pre-Soviet if marked 84)
- 840 (French?)
- 835 (a standard predominantly used in Germany after 1884)
- 833 (common standard used in continental silver especially among the Dutch, Swedish, and Germans)
- 830 (common standard used in older Scandinavian silver -- is this the same as Scandinavian 800?)
- 800 (minimum standard for silver in Germany after 1884; Egyptian silver; Canadian silver circulating coinage; Ottoman empire)
- 750 (uncommon silver standard found in older German, Swiss and Austro-Hungarian silver, Russian "72 zolotnik")
E.g. 999 or .999 silver is fine silver, and it's usually too soft for any practical use; 925 or .925 is sterling silver, an alloy of 92.5% silver.
Sterling is the most common type of silver found in jewelry today. However, historically other purity standards were used (e.g. Russian 875 silver, French "probes" of 920, 840, 750, etc).
80% silver (hallmark 800) was commonly used across Europe and Ottoman empire. Some Scandinavian silversmiths continued to use 800 hallmark even on their 925 silver (to avoid some export taxes or something -- additional information needed).
Besides the most common 999 silver (found on collectable fine silver coins), 925 (sterling standard, introduced by UK, most common for jewelry), and 800 (common on 19 century silverware and jewelry from non-English-speaking West), the following hallmarks are most common for silver jewelry: 750, 875, 916, 960.
95.84% (985) is so-called "Britannia Silver" introduced by British Parliament in 1697 for coinage. In 1720 sterling silver was approved again, and Britannia Silver remained an optional standard in the UK and Ireland. (Britannia silver should be distinguished from Britannia metal, a pewter-like alloy containing no silver.)
Sterling Silver is an alloy containing 92.5% of silver and 7.5% of harder metal, usually copper, which makes the alloy physically harder, which makes it more practical for use in jewelry.
There is some misconception among jewelry buyers, that the word "Sterling" is in fact equivalent of "real silver". This is probably because first, sterling is most commonly used silver today, and second, sterling is considered "real" silver as opposite of so called German Silver (or Nickel Silver), which is not silver at all (see at the end of the page).
Typically, you will find one of the following markings on a jewelry items made of sterling silver:
STERLING, STERLING SILVER, STER
925, 92.5, .925
925 NV - Nevada Silver (i.e., silver originated from Nevada mines?)
TAXCO - see remarks for MEXICO
MEXICO - arguable. Some people say it's a Sterling marking, but according to this (very informative) page, the word MEXICO is rather equivalent of modern "Made in Mexico" stamp, not a sign of 925 purity. (See also here and here.)
Older European silver standards included 835 and 830.
Britain always used the standard 925 and had another standard which is 950 silver which was called Britannia silver (this Britannia silver is seldom seen) and instead of the Lion Rampant or Lion Pageant you would see Britaina. Britain never used a standard less than 925. Hence why British silver is sought after pre-1900 hundreds. Britain would not accept any standard below 925 as silver. Most European countries up until 1920s used 830s.
Scandinavian countries used 830s silver; Denmark moved to using 925 silver in 1927, however even though a higher grade of silver was used by most jewellers in Scandinavia, they stuck to stamping their jewellery "830 S" as they did not have to pay a tariff to the assaying office for the change over to 925. So most Jewellery made by fine houses in Scandinavia will in fact be marked 830 S but will have a standard silver of 925.
Places like Egypt still today only use 830 silver.
999 - Pure Silver, typically found on silver bars rather than jewelry
SILVER -- I've personally got a piece of hand-made jewelry (probably made by Native Americans) marked just SILVER, but I have no idea how often this hallmark is used. Guess it's just non-standard silver marking.
Finally, Russia had their own purity measurement system, based on 96 parts rather than 100 (per cent). Although Russian jewelry is using common markings (like 925 or 835), the silver purity is still based on the old system (hence Russsian 875 standard).