Flatware includes all types of dining forks and spoons, but not knives, which are classed as cutlery in the antiques world. Silver flatware and some plate silver is usually hallmarked to indicate the date and location of its production, as well as the maker's name. Sometimes hallmarks are no more than a tiny symbol with no further information. Occasionally, a mark will show a full maker's name. Consulting a hallmark guide or list is the only way to know what the mark means.
Things you need
Hallmark guide book
Locate the hallmark on the flatware item. This may be on the back of the spoon or fork at the top of the stem. Some French silver plate marks and other hallmarks are imprinted on the inside of a spoon bowl or just above the fork tines.
Use a magnifying lens to ensure that you can properly identify the hallmark. Clean the flatware, if necessary, to make the hallmark as clear as possible
Look for a family crest or monogram. This is different from the hallmark and was commonly added by rich Victorian families.
Search for the mark "Sterling" or the digits "925." Both are pressed into sterling silver, though some international sterling does not bear these marks. English silver may bear the hallmark of a lion or a seated figure holding a shield and staff. These are "The Lion Passant" and "Britannia," which stand for sterling silver and 95.8 per cent silver, respectively.
Check the flatware for the initials "EPBM" or "EPNS." Both are marks for silver plated metals, not solid silver.
Log on to 925-1000.com, an online encyclopedia of hallmarks and associated marks. Compare your hallmark to those featured on the site.
Pick up a copy of a reputable hallmark guide book. Examples include "Bradbury's Book of Hallmarks" and "Silver and Plate (Miller's Antiques Checklist)." Check for your mark in the book.
Visit a local antique silver specialist. Ask him to help identify your hallmarks.
Things you need
- Magnifying glass
- Hallmark guide book