Here are some common marks on silver or silverplate –

These marks mean the same standard as US silver prior to 1870-or 90% silver:


PURE COIN                                                             


These marks mean the same as a content of 92.5% silver:



These marks mean electroplated, developed in the US around the Civil War by William Rogers:

EPNS              Electroplate on Nickel Silver

EPC                Electroplate on Copper

EPWM           Electroplate on White Metal

EPBM            Electroplate on Britannia Metal

EPNS-WMM Electroplate on Nickel Silver with White Metal Mounts

Foreign Marks on Sterling:

Austria           Loth symbol and number 13 (813/1000) or Diana Portrait with Number 1-4

Denmark        Three Towers (82.6% or higher)

European Free Trade           Symbol of Scales with 925

Finland           813/830/916H or 925

England          Lion Passant

France            Profile with Helmet and Marked 1 or 2 (95% or 80%)

Germany        Crescent Moon and Crown (80%)-Sometimes just number 800

Italy                Profile Facing Left with Number 1,2, or 3; 925

Netherlands   Lion with Number 1 or 2 (93.4% or 83.3%)

Norway           830S (83%)

Russia             84 or 96; Sometimes Woman’s Head (Zolotnick)

Sweden           3 Crowns in Cloverleaf or letter S within a Hexagon

Non-Invasive Tests for Silver –

FLEX             Silver has a spring to it.  It will “flex.”  Silverplate does not yield as easily.  You can also dent sterling a lot easier than denting silverplate, so be careful.

RING              Silver will ring-similar to cut glass.  This works for coins, but not really good for tableware.  For coins, hold the coin in the middle with one hand and ping it with the other.  It should ring.

SMELL          Don’t count on this one.

HEFT             This is kind of like intuitive reasoning.  Once you have handled enough silver you will have an idea of what the weight should be, based on past experience.  Not very conclusive.

TOUCH         Both sterling and silverplate will have the same feel.

SEE                Markings are the best indicator of whether the object is silver or not, unless it is fake.  Then you might need an invasive test to confirm.

Tip:  Sometimes polishing an item will reveal hidden markings, repairs, wear, and other indications of metal content.

Definition of Some Unusual Terms

Alaska Silver             A base metal imitating silver-like Nevada Silver or German Silver.

Backstamping            Marking a piece of silver with the retailer’s mark-not the maker.

Britannia Silver        A silver alloy of high standard-usually 95.8%-not to be confused with Britannia Metal (pewter look).

Champleve                 Cuts into surface filled with enamel then polished

Cloisonne                   Similar to champlevé but use of wires soldiered to surface and then filled with enamel.

Diet                             A small sample scraped from a piece for purpose of assay.

Embossing                  Raising designs on silver from the reverse side by hammering (similar to repousse).

Engraving                  Cutting a design into a piece using an engraving tool.

Flatware                     Tableware items that are “flat.”

Hollowware               Items that are not flatware but hollow (bowls, vases, etc.).

Ingot                           Bar of metal.

Matting                      Punching of dots to produce a rough surface.

Niello                          Black inlay used as decorative markings in silver.

Parcel Gilt                 Only part of article is treated with gilding.

Plique-a-jour             Transparent enamel without a backing, enclosed within metal frames, imitates stained glass.

Vermeil                      Gilded silver, same as gilding.

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