Did you fall in love with a silver item in a thrift store and bring it home? Or did you inherit some silver from a relative? It is a good idea to find out exactly what you have when determining value. That is done by looking for a mark — often found on the bottom, back or base of your piece — and doing some research. Kovels can help. Here are some tips and definitions to help you start your identification journey.

Identifying a silver maker can be challenging. Begin by searching the words of the mark. Look for letters and dates. Here’s the tricky part. Conjoined letter marks are common. The letter in the middle or the largest letter may stand for the company name or the last name of the maker. If you can’t figure out the imprint, just search for what you can identify.

The English have made fine silver and silver plate for centuries. Traditional 18th designs remain are still being made. The English have very strict laws about silver guilds, makers, quality of silver, and markings. The English sterling silver marks indicate the maker, date, location, and quality of silver. They are registered with the U. K. Patent Office.

Additional information on silver marks can be found here.


Sterling silver is a type of metal compound most often used when describing flatware and jewelry. Sometimes simply referred to as “sterling” or “925.” Silver is delicate and soft when found in its purest form. To make it more useful, pure silver is often combined with metal alloys like copper as a way of increasing the strength and durability. When pure silver is combined with less than 7.5% alloy, it is referred to as sterling silver. Sterling silver will contain at least 92.5% silver.

Fine silver is 99.9% silver, the rest comprising of trace impurities. Fine silver is too soft for use in many pieces.

Silverplate items have a thin layer of silver covering a base metal, usually nickel. Pieces will usually be marked with the words “silverplate,” “electroplate,” or “EPNS,” meaning electro-plated nickel silver, or “AI.”

Sheffield stamped on the bottom of your piece. It means it is probably silver plated. Also, a general term for trays, bowls, dinnerware and more made in the town of Sheffield from 1760 to about 1840. They were made of copper with a thin coating of silver. Early pieces were made by hammering the silver onto the copper by hand.

gorham sterling silver fish server fontainebleau

Sterling silver fish server, Fontainebleau pattern, Gorham, late 1800s, 11 1/2 in., $270.  Photo: Cowan’s Auctions


tiffany sterling silver entree dish

Sterling silver entrée dish & cover, floral border & finial, monogram, marked Tiffany & Co., 1873, 5 x 11 1/2 in., $1,188.  Photo: Brunk Auctions


victorian silver tray h matthews birmingham 1898

Sterling silver tray, allover Rococo decoration, shaped center cartouche, marked, H. Matthews, 1898, 11 in., $238.  Photo: Hindman


s kirk and son sterling silver footed compote

Sterling silver compote, repousse flowers & leaves, marked, S. Kirk & Son, c.1900, 9 x 4 1/2 in., $469.  Photo: Royal Crest Auctioneers


3 responses to “How to Identify Silver and Find the Marks ”

  1. kovels.com says:

    @vcp1950, @BarbieH2 all solid silver objects have a value whether from their decorative value or melt down value. Handmade silver objects frequently do not have silver marks as they had to be put on separately and the maker may not have marked it. The best way to determine if something is silver is with a testing kit. You can do it yourself or go to your local jeweler who buys gold and silver. They will test it for you and tell you its melt down value.

  2. vcp1950 says:

    So are silver pieces with no marks not of value?

  3. BarbieH2 says:

    What about a silver bowl with no marks at all?

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