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A Full Guide to Silver Markings and Basic Terms

A Full Guide to Silver Markings and Basic Terms

Silver is a precious metal that has been valued for thousands of years for its beauty, durability, and usefulness in a wide range of applications. The finest types of silver would be identified on products. Silver is too soft to be used in manufacturing unless it is combined with other metals, despite its purity of 999. Alloys are the result of the combination of metals. The majority of silver, even those marked as sterling silver, is an alloy. 92.5% of the alloy's metal content must be pure silver for an item to be considered sterling silver. Thus, many goods made with sterling silver have labels. 925.

Many alloys that are sold as silver are referred to by a wide range of designations. When buying antiques or collectables, it is wise to comprehend these concepts because some of them don't even contain any silver.

Here's a complete guide on silver markings and basic terms:

  • Hallmark: A hallmark is a stamp or mark on silver that indicates the quality and purity of the metal. It is used as a means of identifying the maker, date and origin of an item.
  • Silver plate: A silver plate is a thin layer of silver that is electroplated onto a base metal, such as brass or nickel silver. It is not as valuable as sterling silver because the silver layer is much thinner.
  • Fineness: Fineness is a measure of the purity of the silver, expressed as a decimal or a percentage. For example, 925 fineness means that the silver is 92.5% pure.
  • Maker's Mark: A maker's mark is a stamp or mark that identifies the manufacturer or silversmith who made the item.
  • Date Mark: A date mark is a stamp or mark that indicates the year in which the item was made. It is often represented by a letter or a symbol.
  • Assay Office Mark: An assay office mark is a stamp or mark that indicates which assay office tested and verified the silver content of the item.
  • Tarnish: Tarnish is a darkening or discoloration of silver caused by exposure to air and moisture. It can be removed by polishing with a silver cleaner or by using a homemade solution of baking soda and water.
  • Patina: Patina is a thin layer that forms on silver over time, giving it a characteristic colour and texture. It is often considered desirable in antique or vintage silver items.
  • Vermeil: Vermeil is a type of silver plating that uses gold instead of base metal. It is often used in jewellery and decorative items.

A List of Common Silver Alloys with Their Markings: 

The most popular silver alloys are listed below, along with details on how they are marked:

Brittania Silver (950)

Britannia silver is a type of silver alloy that is commonly used in the United Kingdom. It is made up of 95.84% silver and 4.16% copper, which is slightly different from the traditional sterling silver alloy. The reason why Britannia silver is marked as 950 is that the alloy contains 95.84% silver, which is rounded up to 96%. In the UK, silver is typically marked with a three-digit number that indicates the purity of the metal.

Sterling Silver (925)

Sterling silver is an alloy of silver that contains 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals, usually copper. The reason it is marked as "925" is because this is the standard of purity for sterling silver. In other words, to be considered sterling silver, the alloy must contain at least 92.5% silver, and the remaining 7.5% can be any other metal.

The use of the "925" stamp or mark is a way to indicate to consumers that the piece of jewellery or object is made from genuine sterling silver.

European Silver

European silver is marked as 800 because it refers to the purity of the silver in the object. The number 800 indicates that the object is made of silver that is 80% pure, with the remaining 20% being made up of other metals, typically copper.

In Europe, silver objects are often marked with a number that indicated the percentage of silver content. This is done to provide assurance to buyers that they are purchasing a genuine silver object, as well as to help determine the value of the item.

Coin silver (900)

Coin silver is a type of silver alloy that is commonly used for making coins, silverware, and other decorative items. The term "coin silver" refers to a silver alloy that contains 90% silver and 10% copper.

The reason why coin silver is marked as 900 is that the silver content in the alloy is 90% or 0.900 in decimal form. The marking "900" is a way to indicate the purity of the silver in the alloy, and it is a standard practice in the silver industry to use such markings to indicate the purity of different silver alloys.

Various silver-coloured wares

There are many types of silver-coloured wares that are made from a variety of materials, some of which contain actual silver, while others do not. Here are some examples of silver-coloured wares:

German Silver

German silver, also known as nickel silver, is a type of metal alloy that contains copper, nickel, and zinc. Despite its name, German silver does not actually contain any silver. German silver is often used for decorative objects, such as jewellery, flatware, and musical instruments.

German silver has a silver-like appearance, but it is not as shiny as actual silver. It is also more durable than silver and is resistant to corrosion and tarnish. German silver is less expensive than silver, which makes it a popular alternative for jewellery and other decorative objects.

German silver is also used for making musical instruments, such as flutes, clarinets, and saxophones. The metal's unique properties make it ideal for musical instruments because it is strong, lightweight, and has good acoustic qualities.


Alpaca silver is a metal alloy that is made primarily of copper, zinc, and nickel. It is not silver-based despite its name. The term "alpaca" is used because the metal's color and sheen are similar to that of silver.

Alpaca silver is commonly used in jewellery making and for decorative items because it is durable, affordable, and has a bright, shiny finish. However, it is not as valuable as sterling silver or other precious metals, and it may tarnish over time.

It is important to note that alpaca silver is sometimes mistakenly marketed as "Mexican silver," which can be misleading. If you are looking for genuine silver items, it is important to carefully check the labelling and descriptions to ensure that you are getting what you are paying for.

Nickel Silver

Nickel silver is a metal alloy composed of copper, nickel, and zinc. It does not contain any silver, despite its name.

Nickel silver has a silver-like appearance and is commonly used in the manufacturing of silverware, jewellery, musical instruments, and decorative items. It is also sometimes used as a base metal for silver-plated items.

Nickel silver is known for its durability, strength, and resistance to corrosion, making it a popular choice for a variety of applications.

Guide to basic terms to buy silver jewellery

Here’s a guide to some basic terms you should know when buying silver jewellery:

Sterling silver: Popular jewellery-making materials include sterling silver. 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals make up the alloy (usually copper). Sterling silver is stamped with the numbers "925" to indicate its 925 silver jewellery.

Hallmark: A hallmark is a stamp or marking on a piece of silver jewellery that indicates the metal's purity and origin. A hallmark may include the manufacturer's mark, metal purity, and country of origin.

Plating: Silver plating is a process of coating a base metal with a layer of silver. Silver-plated jewellery is less expensive than solid silver jewellery, but it may wear off over time.

Oxidized silver: Oxidized silver is silver that has been intentionally tarnished to give it an aged or antique look. This process is achieved by exposing the silver to a chemical solution or by using a special technique to darken the surface of the metal.

Rhodium plating: Rhodium plating is a process of coating silver with rhodium, a precious metal in the platinum family. Rhodium plating gives silver jewellery a bright, white finish and helps protect it from tarnishing.

Care instructions: It's important to follow care instructions to keep your silver jewellery looking its best. This may include avoiding exposure to moisture and chemicals, storing your jewellery in a dry place, and cleaning it with a soft cloth or special silver cleaner.


By familiarizing yourself with these silver markings and basic terms, you can make an informed decision when buying silver jewellery. Always make sure to purchase from a reputable seller and check the quality of the piece before making a purchase. You can consider choosing us for purchasing silver jewellery, as we at Silveright jewellery only deal with 925 silver jewellery. You can also customize or get personalized jewellery from our store. You can visit our website for additional details.