International hallmarking is a vast and complex topic that covers virtually every country in the world. Each hallmark for each country varies from for example a simple 'made in Iceland' mark to the illustrative thistles and castles of Scottish hallmarks.
If you buy silver as an investment then chances are you buying bullion silver. This means in bulk and it can be bought in many forms. The most common are bars or coins. Bars are rectangular slabs of pure silver and they bear the mark of its manufacturer and a mark indicating its purity. Coins vary from the Chinese panda to the American Eagle.
In the Uk there are currently four hallmarks for silver which has to be applied to any jewellery item weighing over 7.78 grams:-
.925. This means there are 925 parts of silver in 1000 parts of the metal or in other words 92.5% of the metal is pure silver. It is referred to as sterling silver and is the most common format for use in jewellery since the proportions are perfect for design and strength.
.950- Referred to as Britannic silver this means it is 95% pure silver.
.999 as you would expect means 99.9% of the metal used is silver. It is a relatively new hallmark and currently is seldom seen in jewellery usage.
.800 is 80% silver and is sometimes referred to as Mexican silver. Some Indonesian (Bali)snake chains are made using only 80%. The main disadvantage is that it will tarnish faster than sterling silver and is slightly yellow and duller although it is slightly cheaper.
This guide is intended for public reference however no guarantee or warranty is given to the advice proffered within it. It represents the opinions of the author and professional advice should always be sought when making exact determinations of silver.
In the 12th century the English King, Edward I, decreed that silver should be tested for its quality and refinement. He also ordered that a mark should be stamped on the silver to confirm that it had passed this test. This test was called an assay and gave birth to the modern assay offices and hallmarking systems.