Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Story of Precious Silver

By Linda Dawson owner of MimisVintageShop

& Heather Dawson owner of TheAtticShop

Silver is precious and has been coveted by many civilizations over the past five thousand years. It has been used in medicine, technology, commerce, collectibles and jewelry. Silver has become a universal symbol for security, status and beauty. This precious metal is the preferred medium of many designers and has woven itself into the signature styles of many eras; such as Victorian, Art Nouveau, Edwardian, Modern and Bohemian. Cultures across the globe express themselves through their creations with silver; including the Danish, Native Americans and Mexicans.

The earliest silver used in the United States was called coin silver. Coin silver was originally made from melting silver coins and had a pureness of 75-95%. However, after 1906, if the piece was stamped Coin, Pure Coin, Dollar, Standard or Premium it had to be at least 90% pure silver. 

You will find makers marks on the back of a piece of coin silver, (many were copies from English marks with a slight variation), and these can be researched through various online resources.  Here is a link to one resource I have found

By the 1870’s sterling silver became more popular than coin silver and all but replaced coin silver. Coin silver could not compete with the harder English sterling silver being imported into the US. English Sterling silver is marked with a lion rampant, maker’s marks and usually with the city of origin.  

A good source for UK and Irish marks is Here's magnificent belt buckle in English silver, in addition to the maker's marks you can spot the lion rampart.

English Sterling Silver Dragon Belt Buckle from TheSalvages

Tiffany and Gorham were the first major manufacturers of sterling silver in the US. Sterling silver is an alloy of 92.5 percent silver with copper or another metal. The earliest sterling silver in our Country was marked 925/1000.

In the 1880’s, Native Americans melted coins to make beautiful silver and turquoise jewelry.
With the advent of the railroad, many trading posts were established and by the 1890’s flourished. Many tourists went to the Southwest in quest of this beautiful jewelry and the tourist trade advanced in those areas. Today, early Pawn jewelry is highly sought after. There are many books about the makers of these beautiful pieces. 

One we recommend is here:

Here is a beautiful Navajo sterling silver turquoise ring offered by BohemiamTrading.

1960s Navajo Turquoise Oval Sterling Ring from BohemianTrading

Mexican silver hollowware and jewelry became very popular in the late 19th centuries. Mexican silver between the 1900’s and 1970’s can be marked  early 20th Mexico Silver, 900, 925, 970, 980, or have an eagle facing to the right or left. After 1950 most silver is marked Sterling or 925. In 1979 the eagle system was discontinued and was replaced by date letters and numbers.

Vintage Mexican Sterling Silver Charm Bracelet from MimisVintage

Here is an image of a striking Mexican Sterling Silver Sun Brooch by HipCricket showing both the Mexico and 925 marks.

Mexican Sterling Sun Brooch from HipCricket

Continental Silver can be marked 800, 830, and has a lesser silver content than our silver. Georg Jensen is a renowned Danish silversmith and his jewelry is very collectible.  FiglioDesigns is selling this beautiful pair is Georg Jensen earrings.

Georg Jensen Loving Doves Sterling Earrings from FilgioDesigns

Silver has been used worldwide to express the art and culture of many origins. We are lucky to be able to enjoy the silver creations that have been left for us from times gone by and to be inspired as we continue to value this beautiful metal.

View all of the wonderful Sterling Silver Jewelry

from the VJSE Team

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