Pseudo Silver Hallmarks and What They Really Mean

One thing that confuses novice collectors more than anything else is “silverware,” a term that one would think implied the item was indeed constructed of silver, but since the 1840’s, that hasn’t been the case. Until silver electroplating was perfected and patented by Henry and George Richard Elkington in 1840, most silverware was exactly that, 80- to 92.5-percent pure silver. The Elkinton’s patented process allowed the appearance of “silverware” by using only a very thin layer of pure silver, usually from 1/1,000 to 2/1,000 of an inch (0.03 to 0.05 millimeter) thick on a base metal such as copper, brass or Britannia metal (a type of hard pewter).

A genuine English Hallmark

A genuine English Hallmark

To the average person, Coin or Sterling silver don’t look much different than silverplate pieces, but where the difference lies is in the markings. By international convention, most countries have laws regarding the marking of precious metals such as silver and gold, generally referred to as “Hallmarks”—stamped marks from which the purity, the maker, city and date can be determined. Hall Marks had their origins in England, where all silver has been marked since the 14th century, and are a great aid in determining the history of a piece today. American silver is often marked with the word “Sterling” (925/1000ths. pure silver), “Coin” (800/1000ths. pure silver) or with numerical markings that indicate the same thing “925” or “800.”

An example of a psuedo hallmark

An example of a psuedo hallmark

Where the trouble started was when late 19th century makers of American silverplate began to realize they could improve their sales if they marked their products in a similar way to English hallmarks, such marks giving the impression of quality “just like Sterling.” Today, Appraisers and Dealers refer to these as “Pseudo Hallmarks,” which take many forms, but they generally appear as two or five punched marks in Old English script.

The wonderful thing about them though is they actually spell out their true metal content, as can be decoded as shown below. So if your “Silverware” has any of the markings listed below you can rest assured it’s not “Sterling”

EP - Electroplate
EPBM - Electroplated Britannia Metal
EPNS - Electroplate on Nickel Silver (nickel silver is a nickel/brass alloy)
EPC - Electroplated Copper
EPWM - Electroplated White Metal
EPNS-WMM - Electroplated Nickel Silver with White Metal Mounts

Photographs courtesy of www.silvercollection.it

 

Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.

WorthPoint—Discover Your Hidden Wealth

No Comments

  1. Your correspondent, has forgotten al about Ols Sheffield Plate and completely pointed your readers in the wrong direction by assuming pseudo marks were used on silverplate pieces copying the silver pieces.This was not so. Pseudo marks originally used maknly in the British Colonies by local silversmiths who strYou ndo find post 1945 American plateuck imitation marks of English Hallmarks on REAK STETRLING SILVER made locally in the various colonies although the silver they used may have been of a lower standard than British Sterling it was always better than 83% pure silver. Only out and out fraudsters would mark a near copy of a Hallmark on silverplated ware. Some Ameruvan post 1940 are marked with an artistic liob as if to say “I am English sterling if you are fool enough to believe it”.

  2. EllenSadlier says:

    Have a novice question. Are these the only pseudo hallmarks I should be concerned with? And, if not, where an I find information about these marks. Thanks so much for your help.
    EP – Electroplate
    EPBM – Electroplated Britannia Metal
    EPNS – Electroplate on Nickel Silver (nickel silver is a nickel/brass alloy)
    EPC – Electroplated Copper
    EPWM – Electroplated White Metal
    EPNS-WMM – Electroplated Nickel Silver with White Metal Mounts and help.
    Ellen Sadlier

  3. Mike Wilcox says:

    To: Hymie

    The article clearly states in the first sentence that it deals with post 1840 silverware, which by the time period would exclude American Colonial silver and the vast majority of Sheffield plate.

    The article does not deal with fraudulent hallmarks added after manufacture, only those marks used by the companies themselves. If you had used the link provided “www.silvercollection.it” you would see just how many American firms were using pseudo marks well into the 20th Century.

  4. Mike Wilcox says:

    To: Ellen Sadlier

    There are others, but these are their ones you will run into most often. There are several excellent websites for silver marks, such as:

    http://www.silvercollection.it,
    http://www.silvercollecting.com/
    http://www.925-1000.com/

    I’d suggest bookmarking these sites for reference, there’s nothing like practice to develop an eye what genuine and what isn’t.

  5. Brian says:

    Coin silver is generally considered to be 900/1000ths not 800/1000ths. Although there can be some variations in earlier and non-US coins, silver coins minted in the United States have been 900/1000ths since 1837.

    800 silver was primarily made in Europe.

    After 1964 silver content dropped to 40% and finally, previously silver coins are only silver clad.

  6. Mike Wilcox says:

    My apologies, I edited this article about 2am. after “Coin”, it should have read:

    “Coin” (900/1000ths. pure silver), or with numerical markings that indicate the same thing “925″ or “900”.

    ** Please Note- In international terms “Coin silver” is loose term, which can indicate a fineness ranging from less than 700 up to 900 depending upon its country or origin.

    a great deal of Early American silver was made from foreign coins that were not legal tender in the USA with varying silver content. Only by testing can the true content be revealed on earlier pieces.

  7. Jeannette Krebs says:

    I just purchased a silver “antique baby rattle” which is
    marked 800 RSD. Does anyone know what this means.

  8. Clarissa says:

    I am also interested in information regarding pieces marked “800 rsd” silver, and which do not have any other maker’s marks/hallmarks.
    Thanks

  9. Nicky says:

    I’ve just bought a vintage white metal dress clip that is marked 35. Any idea what it means? It’s certainly not silver!
    Thanks…

  10. L Miller says:

    I could not find this answer

    What does it mean when a piece is just marked silver

    Just the word “silver” is on the clasp? Is this an old Chinese marking??

  11. L Miller says:

    I understand Sterling and the percent of silver in 925 but I do not understand just silver on a piece?

  12. L Miller says:

    The 8oo mark is of European origin. Many Italian Cameos are set in 800 silver rather than 925 (sterling) It means there is less silver in the metal alloy.

  13. JoEllen Fernbach says:

    I also have a piece marked just “silver” and would like to know if it means the piece is sterling or something else.

  14. jon says:

    I HAVE A BABBOUR SILVER OVER COPPER VASE MADE WITH OUT HANDLE VERY DETAILED NO.3718 ON BOTTOM UNDERNEATH ON TOP MEN WOMEN DANCING NEXT PICTURE THEIR IN ROOM AT TABLE IN MIDDLE CABIN IN TREES THREE MEN TALKING ONE STANDING THE OTHER 2 SITTING LEANING ONPOLTINEM

  15. Excellent summary on silver pseudomarks. Thanks!

  16. Robin says:

    I have a vase with markings as described above
    A genuine English Hallmark. It is a crown is in the middle of what looks like three diamonds linked together. The letters E.P.-N.S. and numbered 107. I will be happy to send a picture.