SILVER JEWELLERY: PURITY & HALLMARK

Like if this guide is helpful

Currently, there are 4 recognised fineness hallmarks for silver in the UK – 800, 925, 958 and 999. Each mark shows the precious metal content in parts per 1000. For example, 925 parts per 1000 by weight is equivalent to the sterling silver standard. For silver to be recognised as sterling and marked as such, the content of the metal must be at least 925 parts per 1000. In other words, there must be at least 92.5% pure silver in your jewellery for it to be genuine sterling silver.

Here’s a quick glance at UK recognised standards:

800 - Contains at least 80% pure silver + 20% copper or other metals. 800 silver is also known as ‘coin silver’ and it is often used in silver plating because it can endure high firing temperatures. This grade of silver is seldom used in jewellery making nowadays but you may find antique silver pieces marked 800 as it was more commonly used in the 19th and early 20thcenturies.

925 - Contains at least 92.5% pure silver + 7.5% copper or other metals. This is a worldwide standard purity for sterling silver and the most commonly used composition for jewellery making. Another grade which is often used for jewellery making that comes under this category is 95% silver – approximately 95% pure silver + approximately 5% copper or other metals. Slightly higher purity content than the standard 92.5% but is still being used in other European countries, Mexico, South America and South East Asia.

958 - Contains at least 95.8% pure silver + 4.2% silver copper or other metals. This type of silver is also known as ‘Britannia Silver’ and was introduced in 1697 by Act of Parliament. It was brought in to replace sterling silver as the obligatory standard for items of wrought plate. The increase in standard was an attempt to limit the melting of sterling silver coinage into silverware. However, Britannia silver was softer, less robust and more expensive, resulting in complaints from the trade. Sterling silver was later re-introduced in 1720. Britannia silver is better known for its famous Bullion coins and is rarely used for jewellery making.

999 - Contains at least 99.9% pure silver with the balance 0.1% being trace amounts of other elements. This type of silver is also referred to as ‘Fine Silver or ‘Pure Silver’. Silver of this purity is often considered to be too soft to be made into jewellery or other silverware, hence the usage of other base metals with pure silver to harden the metal. However, the higher purity silver content means that fine silver is less prone to tarnish due to the lack of copper and other base metals. Many artisans are still using this grade of silver for making keepsakes and jewellery pieces which are less likely to get scratched such as necklaces and earrings.

‘The Hallmarking Acts 1973’ states that every item sold as precious metal, i.e. gold, silver, platinum or palladium must have been tested and hallmarked by an independent third-party Assay Office to guarantee that the precious metal is of the fineness stated.

The law applies to everything sold in the UK, regardless of where it may have been manufactured.  The only exemptions are items which fall beneath the specified weight thresholds which are 1 gram for gold, 7.78 grams for silver, 0.5 grams for platinum and 1 gram for palladium.

Assay Office's Compulsory Marks

Compulsory marks are made up of 3 marks as shown in the table above:
  • Sponsor or makers mark
  • Metal and purity mark - silver is represented using an oval shape
  • Assay office mark - the office that carried out the hallmarking process on the jewellery
Without at least these 3 marks being presented together, it is possible that the silver item doesn't have a genuine British hallmark, or it is out of date. 

ArtsCraftsJewels silver jewellery is free from nickel and will be hallmarked according to the Hallmarking Act 1973.
Have something to share? Create your own guide... Write a guide
Explore more guides