The value of silver depends on many factors, including the silversmith, design and the date of the manufacture. The law concerning silver hallmark has changed over time and varies from country to country. Certain principles will help you identify silver hallmarks and the date the silver was made.
Examine all of the silver's stamps. Using a jeweller's loupe is helpful to see very small stamps and details of stamps. View each stamp from different directions so that you do not try to identify the wrong stamp. Marks can look different if they are viewed sideways or upside-down.
Determine the nature of the stamps found. The four types of stamps you might find are a purity mark, a maker's mark, a dateletter and a town mark. The purity mark indicates the purity of the silver, typically fine silver or sterling silver.
Examine the maker's mark. In many European countries, manufacturers are required to include both a purity mark and a stamp that identifies the silversmith, but the United States does not require silversmiths to sign their work.
Inspect the dateletter. Silver items made in England after 1478 were stamped with a dateletter, indicating the date the item was assayed by the government.
Examine the town mark. Silver items assayed in countries with multiple offices often included a town mark to indicate the office of assay. For example, an anchor is the assay mark of the office in Birmingham, England.
Compare the marks you find to the marks of known silversmiths. Narrow your search by researching in a book or on a website that concentrates on similar silver items.
This article is intended as an overview. The article does give specific legal or business advice. Your facts and circumstances may change the legal, business and valuation analysis. See an attorney to see how the law applies to you, and consult a professional appraiser to verify the value of your silver.