Silver is a precious metal with a cool, whitish tone and an enchanting shine. For thousands of years, cultures throughout the world have prized silver and used it to fashion a broad assortment of functional and decorative objects, ranging from bowls to baby rattles. Silver cutlery has long been a prized feature of many a well-appointed dining table. Often passed down from one generation to the next and kept in families for centuries, it retains both its beauty and durability with proper care. The hallmark stamps with which silver is embellished can say much about its origins and content.
Know that a ".925" or "925" hallmark indicates that American silver is made of sterling silver. Note that sterling silver is comprised of 92.5 per cent pure silver and 7.5 per cent copper. Keep in mind that 100 per cent pure silver is far too soft for use in most silver objects; consequently, it must be mixed with another metal to improve its strength and durability.
Remember that a broad assortment of different pictorial marks indicate the company by which a piece of American silver was manufactured. For example, a flying unicorn is the pictorial mark associated with the Mauser manufacturing company. Gaylord Silvercraft's pictorial mark is two wings on either side of a "T," and a harp is the pictorial mark associated with Worden Munnis.
Note that some American silver is stamped with an initial hallmark. Remember that the initials stand for the name of the manufacturer. For example, an "AD" hallmark stands for Amos Doolittle, while an "AK" hallmark stands for Ahrendt and Kautzman.
Keep in mind that the style of an American silver hallmark can be a clue as to the age of the silver piece. For example, Tiffany and Co. has employed a variety of different styles of hallmarks throughout its history; one style, which features a bold letter "M," is associated with the year 1853, while another style, which features two bold letter "Ms" is associated with the years 1854 to 1869.
Know that, as is the case with American silver, a ".925" or "925" hallmark indicates that an English silver object is made of sterling silver.
Remember that the lion hallmark is a standard feature of virtually all English silver. Note that the lion's entire body is depicted in profile, and its tail upraised.
Note that the Britannia hallmark appeared on English silver between 1697 and 1720 and was reintroduced in 1999. This hallmark denotes a human figure holding a staff. The Britannia hallmark indicates a content of 95.84 per cent silver, which is slightly more pure than the typical sterling silver.
Keep in mind the British silver will also bear a hallmark indicating the city in which the silver was manufactured. For example, the city mark for London since 1821 has been a lion's head, the city mark for Dublin is a harp, and the city mark for Sheffield was a crown from 1773 to 1974, at which point it was replaced by a rose.
Know that the duty marks with which English silver is stamped can be useful in determining the age of the silver. For example, the only duty mark depicting a king's head facing left was used from 1784 to 1785, while the only duty mark depicting a queen's head was used from 1838 to 1890.
To identify silver hallmark stamps from places around the world, including Russia, Austria, Norway, Mexico and China, and to learn more about American and English silver hallmarks, visit the Online Encyclopedia of Silver Marks, Hallmarks and Makers' Marks at www.925-1000.com.