When it comes to the question of what is really Sterling Silver and what is not, there are several common queries and some simple answers.
The first and most frequent question is whether an item is actually Sterling Silver or silver-plated.
With the exception of some jewelry, genuine Sterling Silver that is made in the United States is clearly marked as being Sterling Silver by being stamped with the word "STERLING". Jewelry will usually have a tiny .925 marking or the word "STERLING" or "STER" stamped on it if it is Sterling Silver. Often it is small enough to require a magnifying glass or jeweler’s loupe to read it.
The Difference between Sterling Silver and Silver-plated:
The second most widespread question is about the difference between silver-plated and Sterling Silver. The basic difference lies in the fact that 92.5 percent of Sterling Silver is pure silver with the remaining percentage being copper or some other metal. Since real Sterling Silver has a ratio of 925/1000 purity, it has great value.
On the other hand, silver-plated items are an inexpensive base metal covered with a very thin layer of silver.
U.S. Sterling Silver Marks
Genuine Sterling Silver made in the United States will bear one of the following marks, and if it does not bear any of these marks, then it is silver-plated:
- “STERLING”, which is the most common mark
Silver bullion is marked .999 Fine, or simply .999.
Sterling Silver Marks Worldwide
Sterling Silver manufactured in Ireland, England or Scotland will bear one of the following stamps if it is genuine:
- Lion rampant
Silver is manufactured all over the world. In the event that the silver you possess may have been manufactured in another country, such as South America, Asia or anywhere in Europe, it can have varying levels of purity and identifying marks.
Those marks can be in the form of a picture or initials. Guide to World Hallmarks can be used as a reference for identifying Sterling Silver markings worldwide; anywhere from Australia to Turkey, and all in alphabetical order for ease of use.
Silver-plate MarksIn addition to discernible Sterling Silver marks that indicate your piece is genuine, there are a few words and marks that indicate that an item is clearly silver-plated and some of those are as follows:
- Heavy Plate and Quadraplate, the keyword obviously being “plate”
- 1847 Rogers Bros, which is not Sterling Silver nor manufactured in the year 1847
The Guide to World Hallmarks also has a section for silver-plating marks with clear illustrations of numerous marks that indicate that an item is silver-plated rather than Sterling Silver
If you want to sell sterling silver, remember that buyers do not generally purchase silver-plated items because of their sheer lack of precious metal value.
Consumers try to sell silver-plated items every day, but unfortunately it is not really worth anything to a buyer.
Before trying to sell sterling silver, first determine if your item has a genuine Sterling Silver mark. The pages on Guide to World Hallmarks can also help you to identify the maker of your piece or pieces and country of origin based upon the mark.
Knowing that the mark indicates genuine Sterling Silver and also knowing the maker can help anyone wanting to sell sterling silver to have a better idea of its value prior to negotiating. A little knowledge about a Sterling Silver piece always puts you in a better position to get top dollar for any silver item.