Sterling Silver Quality Marks List

By on October 23, 2015
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If you’re reading this, you’re probably already familiar with all the reasons to buy solid sterling silver: appreciating value, lower risk of allergic reaction, and guaranteed beauty for decades to come. However, actually finding genuine sterling silver can be challenging, especially when some sellers are less than scrupulous. The best way to guarantee that your silver is actually sterling silver is to look for the markings. Silver jewelry can have an overwhelming variety of markings, however. Maybe you’ve looked at pieces that had weird numbers, words, or even pictures of animals on them. It’s less scary than it seems! You just need to know what each type of marking indicates.

Pure silver is too weak and soft to make good jewelry, so the vast majority of jewelry is made with 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals (usually copper). This is a time-tested mix, and it’s wildly popular for jewelry. As a result, genuine sterling silver jewelry gets stamped with a mark that says “.925” to signify that 925 parts out of every 1,000 are silver. This is the most common marking for sterling silver. If another number is printed, that means there is a different amount of silver. For example, if it’s stamped with .800, that means the metal is 80% silver. These markings may be located in different places, but they will usually be somewhere on the piece if it is sterling silver. Check the clasps, pendants, and inside bands of rings for a percentage marking.

There might be other markings on your jewelry, such as “German Silver” or “Mexican Silver.” Keep in mind that these types of markings don’t really specify a silver content. In fact, “German Silver,” which is also sometimes called “Nickel Silver,” typically has no silver in it at all! Other times, big companies will pay for a legal hallmark, which is a sort of logo or emblem for their company. They can then stamp this onto their silver, guaranteeing that it was made by them. If there is a logo or picture stamped into your silver, it is probably a hallmark for the company that made it.

While quality markings are not legally required in the United States, they are still very common here. Chances are, if you see “.925” stamped on your jewelry, you can be assured that it’s real sterling silver. However, if you’re concerned about the authenticity of a piece, you can always take it to a jeweler. They can drop a small amount of acid on the piece to test the metal. Real silver won’t be harmed by it, but other metals will turn green. Some countries outside the U.S. do require all silver to tested and stamped, so purchasing certified silver (from those countries or within the U.S.) is also an option.

It can be a little confusing to navigate the various markings on silver jewelry, but it doesn’t have to stay a mystery. Now that you understand what the different marks indicate, jewelry shopping should be a little easier! You can buy top quality sterling silver without difficulty.

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