Many families have heirlooms that pass through the ages, from one generation to the next. A common example of one-such heirloom is seen on dinner tables and cabinets; silver. This isn’t any ordinary silver, however. This silver is typically expertly forged into flatware and tea sets. Many times, however, copper is cast into sets and silver plated. It’s easy to mistake the real thing with their copper counterparts, but there are a few identifying marks that can be used to identify silver from not. True, vintage tea or flatware sets can fetch a pretty price tag. Is the set you inherited real? Let’s find out!
Hallmarked silverwork from the United States can be dated back to 1850. These identifying marks can be a bit difficult to find at times, so employment of a magnification device is highly-recommended when looking for these marks: “Sterling” is a commonplace mark on vintage silver sets, whereas “Ster,” a shortened version can also be found. More modern pieces may be stamped with “.925” or “925/1000.” These marks indicate the sterling nature of the silverwork in question. “.925” simply means 925 parts silver, out of a thousand; 92.5% silver. .925 silver is commonly referred to as Sterling, and is jewelry-grade.
European pieces date back much further. With a variety of potential marks, usually depictions or pictures, the designation for sterling can be a bit trickier to spot, let alone properly identify. Most pieces will be marked with the manufacturer’s hallmark, a hallmark for the date, and one to indicate if it’s silver. Commonplace European hallmarks for sterling silver include a crown, an anchor, a standing lion, and a leopard head. If your silver lacks a hallmark, or doesn’t have a properly-indicating sterling hallmark, your piece is likely plated.