How to Identify Silver Stamps

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Silver is a precious metal with a cool, whitish tone and an enchanting shine. For thousands of years, cultures throughout the world have prized silver and used it to fashion a broad assortment of functional and decorative objects, from bowls to baby rattles. Often passed down from one generation to the next and kept in families for centuries, silver objects retain both their beauty and durability with proper care. The stamps with which silver items are embellished--typically on their undersides--can reveal much about their origins and age.

Identifying American Silver Stamps

  • Locate the “.925” or “925” stamp. This stamp indicates that an object is made of sterling silver. Sterling silver is comprised of 92.5 percent pure silver and 7.5 percent copper. Keep in mind that 100 percent pure silver is too soft for use in jewelry and most other silver objects; consequently, it must be mixed with another metal to improve its strength and durability.

  • Find a pictorial stamp. A broad assortment of different pictorial stamps indicate the company by which a piece of American silver was manufactured. For example, a flying unicorn is the pictorial stamp associated with the Mauser manufacturing company; Gaylord Silvercraft’s pictorial stamp is two wings on either side of a “T”; and a harp is the pictorial stamp associated with Worden Munnis.

  • Look for an initial stamp. On American silver, initials stand for the name of the manufacturer. For example, an “AD” stamp stands for Amos Doolittle, while an “AK” stamp stands for Ahrendt and Kautzman.

  • Examine the style of an American silver stamp. It can be a clue to the age of the silver piece. For example, Tiffany and Co. has employed a variety of different styles of stamps throughout its history; one style, which features a bold letter “M,” as associated with the year 1853, while another style, which features two bold letter “Ms” is associated with the years 1854 to 1869.

Identifying English Silver Stamps

  • Find the “.925” or “925” stamp. This indicates that an English silver object is made of sterling silver.

  • Identify the lion stamp, a standard feature of virtually all English silver. Note that the lion’s entire body is depicted in profile and its tail is upraised.

  • Locate the Britannia stamp. It appeared on English silver between 1697 and 1720, and was reintroduced in 1999. This stamp denotes a human figure holding a staff. The Britannia stamp indicates a content of 95.84 percent silver, which is slightly more pure than the typically sterling silver.

  • Look for the city stamp on British silver. It reveals the city in which the silver was manufactured. For example, the city stamp for London since 1821 has been a lion’s head; the city stamp for Dublin is a harp; and the city stamp for Sheffield was a crown from 1773 to 1974, at which point it was replaced by a rose.

  • Use duty marks to determine the age of English silver. For example, the only duty mark depicting a king’s head facing left was used from 1784 to 1785, while the only duty mark depicting a queen’s head was used from 1838 to 1890.

Tips & Warnings

  • To identify silver stamps from places around the world, including Russia, Austria, Norway, Mexico and China, and to learn more about American and English silver stamps, visit the Online Encyclopedia of Silver Marks, Stamps and Makers’ Marks.

References

  • Photo Credit silver cups image by Hao Wang from Fotolia.com
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