What is the sterling silver hallmark?

July 18, 2014

If you own any form of sterling silver jewellery, the chances are that it is engraved with a series of inscriptions which you may or may not understand. If you fall into the latter category, read on for a comprehensive overview of the sterling silver hallmark and why it is so important in the jewellery industry.
History of the hallmark
The history of the hallmark can be traced back to 1300 when a statute passed by Edward I dictated that all precious metals must be examined and appropriately marked. The idea was to safeguard the public against fraud and protect traders from dishonest competition.
Hallmarks around the world
There are a number of different hallmarks established by countries across the globe. The most commonly used stamp is called the assayer’s mark which indicates the purity of the silver. This is usually a number that indicates the minimum millesimal fineness of silver mass that is present in the alloy. The hallmarks will vary from country to country. The most common are;
  • United Kingdom and Ireland
The hallmarking system of the UK and Ireland is renowned as being one of the most highly structured in existence. Pieces originating from this region are easily traceable thanks to the many specific marks that have been introduced over the years. A Lion Passant is used to mark silver that meets the 925 sterling standard of purity while the hallmark ‘958’ denotes an alloy of Britannia purity.
  • Italy
Italian sterling silver is celebrated for its superior quality and unrivalled craftsmanship. Sterling silver of Italian origin is denoted by standard millesimal fineness marks of .800 and .925 accompanied by the world ‘Italy.’
  • France
The French set their standard of sterling silver higher than any other nation, using the head of the Goddess Minerva to denote a purity of 95%. Anything less than this is marked with an additional number used to indicate the millesimal fineness. ‘1’ specifies .920, ‘2’ specifies .840 and ‘3’ is used for .750.
  • United States
The US did not adopt a sterling standard or date marking system until 1868 which meant many companies such as Tiffany & Co. adopted their own unique methods.  Today, the world ‘sterling’ and number ‘925’ are used to indicate a minimum 92.5% millesimal fineness.
With this information in mind, you should be able to determine the millesimal fineness of your jewellery and shop with confidence that you can correctly identify genuine sterling silver items. Whether you’re purchasing rings, necklaces, earrings or bracelets, hallmarks are standard indications of purity and will help ensure you invest in quality pieces that will last a lifetime.   

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