June 16, 2023

Silver can be a very valuable material to have in your home. While prices for silver are only a fraction of its more expensive cousin, gold, selling silver belongings can be a great way to generate extra cash to pay down debt, cover a surprise expense, or kickstart your personal savings.

Before you sell silver, it helps to know what you have on your hands. One of the most important questions you need to answer before you sell silver is this: how much silver was actually used in making this item?

A scale can give you the weight of any silver belonging you have, but not all silver items are manufactured with the same purity. When you know what percentage of the metal used in an object is pure silver, you can get a better idea of what it may be worth.

As Toronto’s top silver buyers, we pride ourselves on giving our clients the best possible prices for their silver belongings. We’ve paid out over $25,000,000 to the public for their jewellery, coins, and precious metals. We want to make sure that you get fair value when you sell your silver. The first step is identifying what you have to sell. This guide will show you how to inspect silver items and identify hallmarks that will tell you how much silver can be found in the item.

Silver Bullion: Bars and Coins

Let’s start with the simplest type of silver to identify: silver bullion bars and coins. Bullion is the word used to describe any silver that is 99.9% pure. Typically, silver bullion is only found in the form of bars, coins, and rounds. These are usually used by investors who want to add physical silver to their portfolio as a secure store of value and a way of diversifying their investments.

These bars and coins spend most of their time sealed away in a vault or a safe, often in a plastic case, and do not need to be particularly durable. Silver is a highly malleable and ductile metal, which means it is very soft and easily manipulated. This softness makes it highly prone to dents, scratches, and getting bent out of shape in its purest forms. Silver that is going to be used or worn needs to be alloyed, which is why you see lower purities of the metal in things like jewellery and flatware. Only coins and bars that aren’t going to be handled much can have a high purity.

Identifying silver bullion is easy. Coins and bars should have both their weight and purity stamped on one face, as well as who manufactured the product. The stamp representing purity will likely be a decimal or “parts per thousand.” For example, .999 or 999 on a silver bar or coin means that it is 99.9% pure silver (the standard for bullion).

Some coins and bars may have an even-higher silver purity. You can also get 99.99% silver. This will usually be represented as .9999 or 9999. This is the highest-quality silver refinement, and it commands a premium. We pay higher prices for .9999 silver than even .999 coins and bars.

A large silver bullion bar with .999 purity.

Collectible Silver Coins

Collectible silver coins may or may not have a hallmark on them. It depends on the manufacturer and what kind of collectible they are.

Most contemporary silver coins sold as collectibles are 99.9% pure silver, and they may have 999 or .999 stamped on the obverse (heads) side. Mints like the Niue Mint, which is a popular source of collectible coins, also print it as Ag 999 (Ag being the symbol for silver).

These collectible coins often feature cultural iconography, pop culture, wildlife, or designs commemorating historical moments and figures.

Other collectible coins may be harder to identify. Some numismatics enthusiasts collect old circulation coins that have silver content, such as silver dollars. The precious metal content of these coins depends on their country of origin and the era in which they were made. You may need to do some historical research to identify the silver content. For example, the Morgan Dollar is 90% pure silver, while Eisenhower Dollars minted between 1971-1974 are 80% silver. If you can find the year of the coin and identify the images on both sides, you should be able to find out more details online.

Finding the Silver Content of Silver Jewellery

While coins and bars tend to have their hallmarks front and center, it can be a bit harder to find hallmarks on silver rings, necklaces, bracelets, and other types of jewellery.

All precious metal jewellery should have a hallmark imprint, but expect it to be very small and tucked away. It needs to be unobtrusive so that it does not distract from the look or the design of the jewellery. These stamps can usually be found on the underside or backs of jewellery. For pendants, pins, and other flat types of jewellery, flip them over to find the stamp. You will usually find the hallmark on the interior side of rings and bracelets. When it comes to necklaces and other pieces that come with a silver chain, look for the hallmark near the clasp. You may even want to get a magnifying glass to see the symbols clearly.

Now, let’s take a look at what the symbols that you’ll find mean.

Sterling Silver:A lot of jewellery is sterling silver, which is 92.5% silver and 7.5% an alloy of metals like copper and zinc. Common hallmarks for sterling silver include:

  • Sterling
  • Sterling silver
  • 925
  • 925/1000
  • 5%

Britannia silver:Britannia silver is a step above Sterling, and it is 95.8% silver. The hallmark may say Britannia, 95.8%, or 958.

Fine silver:In some rare cases, you may find Fine or 100% silver. This may also be stamped with 1000.

Origin marks: In some sterling silver pieces made in the UK, you may also see a symbol that tells you the piece is both sterling and its origins. A stamp of a lion is from England, a harp from Ireland, and a thistle from Scotland.

Silver Flatware: Where to Find the Hallmark?

If you have vintage silver flatware, a silver hallmark will confirm that it’s made from real silver and the purity. Most flatware should be made from sterling silver (92.5%). The hallmark will read STER, “925,” or “92.5%”.

You can find the hallmark on the back handles of spoons, generally just below the bowl. On knives, the stamp will be on the collar or ferrule around the handle. On forks, the hallmark is usually found on the shoulders, where the piece becomes wider.

Silver flatware will often also have a maker’s mark. This stamp will be a symbol, word, or initials that indicate who made the piece. Antique collectors have made extensive lists of maker’s marks that indicate the manufacturer, as well as the country or even the town that the flatware was made in, but you can also take the piece in to be assessed by an expert in antiques.

A silver tea pot on a table setting.

Silver Holloware

Holloware is another great source of silver belongings in your home. Holloware is tableware other than cutlery, which is typically called flatware. Holloware includes items like pitchers, tureens, serving trays, teapots, gravy boats, napkin rings, and candlesticks. People often get holloware as a wedding gift, or they may inherit silver holloware from a loved one.

Holloware can give you a lot more weight in silver than you would get from emptying out your entire jewellery drawer. The trick is inspecting silver holloware to make sure that it’s real silver. There is a lot of silver plated holloware out there that won’t be worth much. Silverplate is a thin layer of silver that has been applied over a cheaper metal to give a piece the appearance of silver, but most silver buyers won’t bother purchasing it. A silverplate piece might have value for a collector, but the silver content will be fairly low.

Most pieces of holloware should have a hallmark on the underside, base, or on the handle. If you have sterling silver holloware, you can expect to get a good price for it. However, if you find a hallmark that says EP, it’s silverplate. EPNS stands for electroplated nickel silver. These pieces likely won’t be worth as much.

Identifying Antique and Vintage Silver Items

In most cases, the value of silver tea sets, holloware, and flatware will come from purity and weight. Buyers are interested in the silver contents, which they are probably going to recycle. However, vintage and antique silver items may also have the interest of collectors. Silver flatware and holloware can go back hundreds of years. Older and rarer pieces can garner interest from collectors. There are several factors that can give an antique value, including:

  • Coming from a high-quality or highly-sought after maker.
  • Age, especially antique pieces that are hundreds of years old.
  • Quality craftsmanship.
  • Story of ownership, i.e., the piece had a notable owner in the past.

Why the Silver Hallmark Matters

The silver content of anything you bring in has a big impact on how much you can expect to get for the piece. The amount of money you can get from selling silver depends on three factors: the current price of silver, the purity of the piece, and the weight.

When you know all of these factors, you can prepare yourself for when you start getting quotes from silver buyers. It’s always a good idea to get multiple quotes from silver buyers if you have the time so that you can compare and get the best one. The more you know about your silver, the better you can evaluate potential offers.

You should also make sure that you get separate quotes for pieces with different silver quantities. Some buyers may attempt to sort all of your silver together and make an offer based on the lowest purity in your collection. Sell to someone who will evaluate and pay for each piece based on its own qualities.

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