Silver History and Information

Below you will find a list of brief articles, each focusing on a different topic related to Silver. Simply click on the title of the article to read it in full.

History of the hallmarking system

British silver is famous for its quality and for the enigmatic series of markings it carries, known as hallmarks. As we will see, these marks tell us a great deal of information about the item upon which they are found, including the year it was made and who made it. This hallmarking system, coupled with the high quality and prolific output of the British silversmiths has made British silver the most collected silver in the world. Read more...

How to read British Hallmarks

The vast majority of English, Scottish and Irish silver produced in the last 500 years is stamped with either 4 or 5 symbols, known as hallmarks. The prime purpose of these marks is to show that the metal of the item upon which they are stamped is of a certain level of purity. The metal is tested and marked at special offices, regulated by the government, known as assay offices. Only metal of the required standard will be marked. It is a form of consumer protection, whose origin goes back almost 1000 years. Read more...

How to clean silver

Over time, silver and silver plated items tarnish. Firstly they develop a yellow tinge. Then, slowly they darken and eventually, if left for a very long period without being polished, they can actually turn completely black. Some people like the look of silver in a tarnished condition and in fact some museums deliberately let their silver tarnish until completely black. However, must people prefer the elegant, soft lustre of hand polished silver. Below we will explain some of the different ways that silver can be cleaned and cared for, but first we will explain why it is that silver tarnishes in the first place. Read more...

Sterling Silver

Sterling silver is a metal alloy containing 92.5% silver by weight. The majority of the rest of the alloy is copper. In England, from 1238 until 1999 (excluding a brief period from 1697 - 1720), sterling silver was the minimum purity of silver alloy that could be legally sold as ‘silver’. Items of a lessor quality had to be described as white metal. Read more...

Britannia Silver

In 1697 an Act was passed by Parliament, raising the minimum legal purity for silver items to 95.84%. This new standard was named Britannia Standard and remained in force until 1720, when Sterling Silver was reintroduced. After 1720, Britannia Standard Silver became an optional higher standard, predominantly used on prestige pieces or reproductions of items made in the Britannia Standard period. Read more...

Silver Plate

Silver Plate is made by electroplating silver onto the surface of another, cheaper base metal. The first silver plate was made in the 1830s and was usually plated onto Nickel Silver, an alloy of nickel, copper and zinc. In the twentieth century copper started to become a popular substitute for Nickel Silver and by the 1940s copper was the predominant base metal used for silver plating. Read more...

Old Sheffield Plate

Old Sheffield Plate is a form of Silver Plate, made by heat fusing silver onto copper. The two metals fuse extremely well and once fused, act as one in response to manipulation. The process was discovered around 1743 and quickly became very popular. However, with the invention of Electroplating in the 1830s, the Old Sheffield Plate industry started to struggle, unable to compete with this new, more economical process. By the 1850s, just over 100 years after its birth, the industry was effectively dead. Read more...




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