Sterling, Coin Silver, Silverplate, and White Metal

Sterling Silver

Most American sterling is marked Sterling, 925, or 925/1000.  Sterling silver is a minimum of 925 parts pure silver to every 1000 parts.

Prior to the enactment of the Stamping Act of 1906, there were no national laws requiring silver objects to be marked in any manner, although quite a few states had already adopted their own laws.  The Stamping Act of 1906 required all items being sold as sterling silver to be marked as sterling.

Prior to 1906, marking a piece Sterling or 925 was at the discretion of the maker.  Most makers, however, were proud of the fact their objects were made of sterling, and boastfully marked their items as such.

A piece may be marked 935, 950, or with another higher grade.  This is still considered sterling silver, but has a higher silver content than that required by the sterling standard of 925.

The term English Sterling was occasionally used on sterling objects during the coin silver era prior to 1868.

Also during the time when coin silver was the predominant silver grade in the U.S., the Maryland Legislature passed the Assay Act, requiring all silver in Baltimore to be assayed.  In 1830 the law was changed to no longer require the assaying of silver, but then required makers to mark their silver with quality designations.  Silversmiths outside of Baltimore also started adopting this practice.  Sterling silver is 11 ounces 2 pennyweight silver per 12 ounces Troy, so sterling silver from this place and time is marked 11.2 or 11-2.

Coin Silver

Coin silver may have a variety of marks or may not be marked at all.

Coin silver originally was made from melting coins from various countries.  These coins were minted using varying grades of silver.  The U.S. adopted a 900/1000 standard for American silver coinage in 1837, but as silversmiths continued to use predominantly foreign coins to make their silver goods, the actual silver content of coin silver objects can vary.

The word Dollars on silver indicates an object was made from melted silver dollars, so is coin silver.

The word Standard used on silver indicates it was made to the U.S. silver standard after 1837, so 90% pure.  Please note, however, that the word Standard can also be used on silverplate to indicate something altogether different.

Due to the Assay Act of 1814 passed in the State of Maryland, a mark of the Baltimore Coat-of-Arms or the numbers 10-15, 10 oz 15, 1015, 11, 11 oz, or 11-12 also are an indication of coin silver.  Please see the Baltimore Assay Marks section for more information.


Silverplated objects may have a wide variety of marks, or may have no marks at all.

The following terms all indicate an item is silverplated:

  • A1
  • AA
  • Coin Plate
  • Deepsilver or Deep Silver
  • Double or Double Plate
  • Electro+plate
  • EP
  • EPC
  • EPBM
  • EPNS
  • EPWM
  • Extra Coin Plate
  • Extra Plate
  • Plate or Plated
  • Quadruple or Quadruple Plate
  • Reinforced Plate
  • Silver Plate or Silverplate
  • Silver Soldered
  • Sterling Inlaid
  • Sterling Plate
  • Triple or Triple Plate
  • XII
  • XIV
  • XS

White Metal

A white metal is an alloy of tin and other metals.  White metals contain no silver.

The terms below are for different types of white metal.  Some are trade names, others are generic terms.

  • Alpaca or Alpacca Silver
  • Aluminum Silver
  • Austrian Silver
  • Brazil or Brazilian Silver
  • Bristol Silver
  • Burmaroid Silver
  • England Silver
  • German Silver
  • Indian Silver
  • Japanese Silver
  • Laxey Silver
  • Mexican Silver
  • Nevada Silver
  • Nickel Silver
  • Paktong
  • Pearl Silver
  • Potosi Silver
  • Solid G Silver (aka German Silver)
  • Sonora Silver
  • Tyrol Silver
  • Venetian Silver
  • Yukon Silver