All about the silver hallmark
Our guide to the silver hallmark
More than 5,000 punches are currently available in silver metal different! This system has been used since the Middle Ages to authenticate goldsmith’s work and guarantee its silver content. The presence or absence of French and international hallmarks therefore has a direct impact on the value of solid silver or silver-plated objects. So, what is the silver hallmark, how can it be identified and what is its purpose? Find out in this article.
What is the silver hallmark?
The silver hallmark, also known as the guarantee hallmark, is a stamp affixed by French customs to control the quality and authenticity of jewelry and works in precious metals. The silver hallmark not only guarantees the purity of the silver used in manufacture, but also identifies the type of alloy. This directly determines the value of the object or piece of jewelry.
A manufacturer uses a silver hallmark to certify the quality of his products. genuine silver jewelry and silver pieces weighing over 30 grams. The hallmark is applied to new work using a needle: some brands have their own master hallmark for signing precious metal objects.
Where does it come from?
The control of goldsmith’s and silversmith’s pieces comes directly from the Middle Ages. In 1275, Philip the Bold asked each town to affix a silver hallmark to the pieces they produced. Since 1672, goldsmiths’ products have been subject to national regulations: the affixing of master, jurande, charge and discharge hallmarks was mandatory. Since 1798, the procedure has been simplified, and only the title hallmark and the guarantee hallmark remain.
3 types of silver hallmarks
Master silversmith’s hallmark
The guarantee hallmark, which determines the title of the work, is not the only one affixed. The shape of the silver hallmark can identify the master goldsmith with additional engraving: the letters placed inside the hallmark are personal to each craftsman, or the name of the manufacturer or brand is engraved directly in full.
The square hallmark
We need to differentiate between an oval or octagonal silver hallmark and a square or rectangular silver hallmark: in the latter two cases, this means that the jewel or piece of silverware is made of plated silver. Its value is therefore lower, since the work is only covered with silver on top of a so-called poor metal.
The silver hallmarks used can vary from country to country. For example, England has its own guarantee hallmarks, like sterling silver. However, apart from a few exceptions, identical silver hallmark systems are used throughout the world. A 925 silver hallmark, guaranteeing 92.50% silver, will have the same value in France as in Canada.
How to identify a silver hallmark?
Most of the time, you can’t see a silver hallmark with the naked eye: it measures just 2 or 3 millimetres! A magnifying glass is used to distinguish them. Silver hallmarks can sometimes be difficult to identify on time-damaged work, or even disappear altogether.
On silver flatware, the silver hallmark is found on the face of solid silver spoons or forks for French manufacture, and on the back of handles for English manufacture. For knives, the hallmark will be on the blade or on the handle, while for dishes, it will be on the underside or on the contours.
Pure silver, also known as fine silver, has a purity level of 99.9%. As its name suggests, it is the purest form of silver on the market. Silver ingots are the most common form of pure silver. However, it can also be used in the manufacture of objects such as silver jewelry.
The silver coins French silver coins are often made of 680 or 900 thousandths silver, without hallmarks, as marking is only compulsory for large items.
The best-known hallmarks for sterling silver
There are some relatively well-known hallmarks for identifying sterling silver:
- Amphora: 999/1000th silver
- Minerva’s head: 925/1000th silver
- Head of Minerva, second title: 800/1000th silver
- Swan: silver less than 500/1000th
- Crab: silver 800/1000th
- Boar’s head: silver 500/1000th
- Lion: silver 925/1000
- Britannia: silver 958/1000th
If the work has been made with an alloy (silver and base metal such as copper or zinc), one or two slashes are represented on the silver hallmark.
The silver hallmark code identifies the purity of the precious metal with a number from 1 to 3. This number is affixed directly to the hallmark and determines the silver content of the jewel or object. For example, the number “1” signifies a 1st grade hallmark, i.e. 925‰, while the number “2” signifies a 2nd grade hallmark, i.e. 800‰.
It is also possible to read a capital letter to offer additional information about the period:
- A: 1973 to 1982
- B: 1983 to 1992
- C: 1993 to 2002
- D: 2003 to 2012
- E: 2013 to 2022
Know the value of a silver coin or ingot
If you have silver coins in your possession, you may be unaware of their value. Métaux Précieux welcomes you to its branches in Paris and Le Havre, to estimate the value of your silver items free of charge and without obligation. Our experts will give you a price that takes into account the work itself, its state of preservation, its silver content (thanks to the hallmark) and the value of the piece. silver price current.
Discover our collection of silver coins and ingots to invest in this safe-haven asset and protect your savings against inflation! We can help you with all your investment projects.buying and selling silver in France, with traceable and secure transactions.