What do hallmarks mean?
When you buy or, even better, are given an item of jewellery, it's always a good idea to look for a hallmark stamp. Since January 2009 it is law that any silver item over the weight of 7.78grams has to carry a hallmark, otherwise it has to be called 'white metal'. The weight for gold is just 1 gram.
In the case of silver, most hallmarks will have the number 925, in other words, Sterling Silver, this means it is 925 grams silver and 75 grams of copper, the copper makes the silver a bit tougher. There is also 999, which is Fine Silver, no copper added. 835 or 800 you will find mostly on silver coming from Mexico and India. This is a lower quality silver. Gold comes in 9, 14, 18 or 22 carat. The corresponding numbers are 375, 585, 750 and 916.
The other marks are either a lions head, an anchor, a rose or a castle. These symbols represent the assay offices in (respectively) London, Birmingham, Sheffield or Edinburgh In addition to these two marks you will normally have a makers mark, usually the initials of the silver or goldsmith.
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