Silver Hallmarks

>> Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hallmarking is the earliest form of consumer protection. It was introduced in 1300 by a Statute of Edward I.

What is hallmark? There is a common misunderstanding about what a hallmark really is. Many people confuse hallmarks with makers' marks. A hallmark is nothing more than an indication of metal content, a guarantee of purity or quality, which may include a maker’s mark and other marks. Makers' marks alone are not considered hallmarks. Hallmarks are most often found on precious metal objects. Jewelry is exempted from hallmarking under certain circumstances. However, when a piece of Silver Jewelry is hallmarked, the marks can yield clues to country of origin Gold, Silver, and Platinum are always alloyed with copper or other metals to create an alloy that is more suitable to the requirements of the jeweler. Such an alloy needs to be strong, workable and attractive. and, sometimes, date of manufacture, as well as indicate the metal content of the piece.

The Hallmarking system has always been a valuable protection for over 700 years. It is necessary because when jewelry is manufactured precious metal is not used in pure form. Hallmarking a metal is compulsory. By making hallmarking compulsory,has protected all parties; the public : who receives guarantee of quality, the manufacturer: who is given protection and quality control from his competitors at a very low cost and the retailer: who avoids the near impossible task of checking standards on all his goods.

Every country has a different system of hallmarking, ranging from simple to complex. Hallmarks have been in use in England and France since the 14th century. Most other European countries also use hallmarks.Depending on country of origin, hallmarks can also include symbols for place of assay, date of assay (in the form of a letter or a letter and a number), maker’s mark, importation or exportation mark if applicable, and tax or duty mark.


The French have the most complex system of hallmarks in the world, and the most difficult to read. If you can learn to recognize the French marks for gold, silver and platinum, you will have done good. The difficulty lies in the fact that the French never use numbers. Symbols in the form of animals and heads of animals and people, insects, and birds have been used to indicate fineness, place of manufacture, imports and exports.
French Bookmarks
French boar's head mark for (at least) 800 silver, taken with a 60x photo microscope


Many European countries mark silver and gold with numerical fineness marks in thousandths, e.g., 800, 830, 900, 935, etc. for silver, 333, 500, 585, 750, 875, etc. for gold. Other symbols may be used in combination with these numbers.

Polish marks for 800 silver
(used after 1963)

In Russia, two-digit numbers refer to zolotniks, which convert to thousandths, e.g., 56 = 583 (14k), 84 = 875 silver (or 21k gold), . Between 1896 and 1908, the national mark was the left profile of a woman’s head wearing a diadem (“kokoshnik”). From 1908 to 1917, a right-facing profile was used. After the Russian Revolution, the mark was a right-facing worker’s profile with a hammer, and the fineness in thousandths.

Russia Mark
Russian hammer & sickle in star mark and 875 silver mark (used after 1958)

Swedish Hallmarks after 1912 include a triple crown mark, in a trefoil for local manufacture, and in an oval for imports, along with an S in a hexagon for silver indicating 830 or higher.

Swedish Mark
1953 Swedish brooch
Swedish hallmarks: ( left to right) Stockholm city mark, "C9" (for 1953), Swedish triple crown stamp, "S" (in hexagon indicating 830 silver or higher)

Finnish Hallmarks are similar to Swedish. A crown inside a heart indicates local manufacture, a crown in an oval for imports. Place of assay, maker’s mark and date letter/number may be added.

Finnish Hallmark
Finnish hallmarks: ( left to right) back to back "K's" for Kalevala Koru (mfr.), Finnish crown stamp, "918H", boat stamp for Helsinki, "M7"
(for 1965)


The British system of hallmarking is little bit complex, but relatively easy to follow once the system is deciphered. British hallmarks include a fineness or purity mark, an assay office mark, a date letter, and usually but not always, a maker’s mark.

British Hallmark
British sterling hallmarks: (left to right)
anchor ( city mark for Birmingham), lion passant (for 925 sterling), "a" (indicating the year 1900)

On English silver, the lion passant (walking lion) is the symbol for Sterling Silver (925).

In this world that is full of fakes and reproductions , a little knowledge of hallmarks can help dealers and collectors from being cheated and can make them more confident about what they are buying.

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