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Dating english silver from hallmark

Early coin silver was often marked with the maker's name, and nothing else; sometimes it doesn't show even that.

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Hotel silver is electroplate that was manufactured for use on trains and steamships and in restaurants and hotels.Silver plate has its own codes in the United States and abroad.The maker or company name is usually stamped on the back of the piece along with an indication that it's plated: in America, for instance, A1, AA, EP, sterling inlaid, or silver soldered.This standard -- 92.5 parts pure silver to 7.5 parts copper alloy, which strengthens the softer silver -- was established by the English during the 12th century and later adopted by most of the silver-making world, including the United States in 1868Many people think of coin as much less valuable than sterling, but it has only about 2 percent less silver and, in some cases, may even contain more.Because of its age and beauty, a piece made from coin can sometimes be worth more than American sterling.You can dent a sterling sugar bowl very easily, but a similar piece of hotel silver can be dropped without much harm because the underlying base metal is stronger than silver.

Certain alloys, referred to as Venetian silver and Nevada silver, consist of nickel and silver.

With the adoption of the sterling standard after the Civil War, silversmiths continued to stamp their own names on the back, along with the word sterling or the number 92.5 or 925, all of which indicate sterling quality. The Gorham company's mark was a row of three emblems: a lion (for sterling), an anchor (for its base in Rhode Island), and a "G" (its initial).

Some American silversmiths mimicked British hallmarks to lend their wares prestige -- rather than to convey specific information.

The question I hear most often at antiques shows is, How do you know whether something is silver?

People aren't necessarily looking only for sterling; they just want to know what they're buying.

Most of the time, you can find the answer simply by turning over the teaspoon, fish fork, ice cream saw, or cheese scoop (antique flatware is that specialized).