Silver, as with gold, that is stamped .999 is considered pure.
Fine silver, or 99.9% pure silver, is generally too soft for producing functional objects; therefore, other metal, copper (predominantly), is added to it to give it strength while preserving The appearance of the precious metal.
Items that are silver usually have marks on them. A few of the typical marks are:
— .999 fine
— Coin silver
Some older items made of silver may be marked “coin silver”. Coin silver is the same as 900. Note that the “coin silver” marking is not just for coins, but could be found on any item made with 90% silver content.
The term “coin silver” can be a bit confusing. For example, All US 90% silver coins (Minted in or before 1964) are “coin silver” but not all US minted silver coins are considered “coin silver”. (see our blog about “Junk Silver”)
US silver coins are as follows:
War nickels were minted from 1942-1945 and are 35% silver**
- 1971 – 1974, 1976 Silver Eisenhower Dollars are 40% silver
- 1965 – 1970 Silver Kennedy Half Dollars are 40% silver
- 1792 – 1964 Dollar, half dollar quarter and dimes (aka: Junk Silver) is 90% silver
**World War II prompted the rationing of many commodities. Nickel was highly valued for use in armor plating, and so Congress ordered the removal of this metal from the five-cent piece, effective October 8, 1942. From that date, and lasting through the end of 1945, five-cent pieces bore the regular design but were minted from an alloy of copper, silver and manganese. It was anticipated that these emergency coins would be withdrawn from circulation after the war, so a prominent distinguishing feature was added. Coins from all three mints bore very large mintmarks above the dome of Monticello, and the letter ‘P’ was used as a mintmark for the first time on a US coin.
The rule of thumb for reading numerical markings on silver items is that the number represents the number of parts per 1000 of silver the item is.
Silver marked 800 is 80% silver.
Silver marked 925 is 92.5% silver. This is also called Sterling Silver.
Silver that is marked 958 is 95.8% silver. This is also called Britannia silver.
It should be noted at Britannia silver should not confused with Britannia metal which does not contain silver.
Always remember that anyone can stamp an item Sterling, 925 or anything else for that matter bur it doesn’t mean it is accurate. ( See our blogs on testing methods under “Authentication”)