Hall­mark­ing of Sil­ver

Consumer Voice - - Contents -

Good to Be on the Safe Side

While some would re­fer to sil­ver as the cheaper cousin of gold, that does not take away from the pe­cu­liar charm of this pre­cious metal. It has been known and val­ued since an­cient times. While our early an­ces­tors started us­ing sil­ver due to its beau­ti­ful white colour, its re­sis­tance to cor­ro­sion and its shine com­bined with its scarcity has cre­ated a de­mand for it both as an or­na­ment and as a form of wealth. It is also used widely in the pro­duc­tion of coins, uten­sils and arte­facts. How­ever, as in the case of gold, it is rel­a­tively easy for the cus­tomer to be a vic­tim of ir­reg­u­lar metal qual­ity. This is why it is im­por­tant to grasp the rel­e­vance of hall­mark­ing. A hall­mark in­di­cates that the sil­ver ad­heres to ac­cept­able stan­dards of pu­rity.

There is a com­mon mix-up about what a hall­mark re­ally is. Many peo­ple con­fuse hall­marks with mak­ers’ marks. A hall­mark is es­sen­tially an in­di­ca­tion of metal con­tent, a guar­an­tee of pu­rity or qual­ity, which may in­clude a maker’s mark and other marks. Mak­ers’ marks alone are not con­sid­ered hall­marks. Hall­mark­ing pro­vides a bench­mark with re­gard to stan­dards of fine­ness and acts as a guar­an­tee against pre­ven­tion of adul­ter­ation, be it de­lib­er­ate or ac­ci­den­tal.

Pure sil­ver is too soft to with­stand wear as an ar­ti­cle and un­scrupu­lous man­u­fac­tur­ers and sup­pli­ers tend to take ad­van­tage of this by us­ing al­loys of lesser value. This mal­prac­tice has trans­lated into sub­stan­tial mon­e­tary losses to the con­sumer.

Sil­ver is ex­tracted from sul­phide ore by cyani­d­ing and im­proved smelt­ing pro­cesses and is then re­fined by elec­trol­y­sis process. The fine sil­ver pro­duced by this process is a rel­a­tively soft metal and wears away in the course of use. To avoid this, sil­ver­smiths over the ages have al­loyed their sil­ver with a small quan­tity of cop­per, the lat­ter not ex­ceed­ing 10 per cent. The most fa­mous of th­ese al­loys is prob­a­bly the English ster­ling (925 parts sil­ver and 75 parts cop­per per thou­sand), which was for­mu­lated about AD 1200 and is em­ployed for jew­ellery and plate as well as coinage. Till now, the popular coin sil­ver is a sil­ver al­loy of 900 parts pure sil­ver and 100 parts metal al­loys. To pro­tect the com­mon man from pur­chas­ing adul­ter­ated sil­ver ar­ti­cle, nec­es­sary pre­ven­tive mea­sures were taken by the author­ity of Lon­don in the 12th cen­tury. As­say­ing and pu­rity mark­ing on ster­ling sil­ver was first in­tro­duced in Lon­don, giv­ing rise to hall­mark­ing.

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