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How To Identify The Silver Content of Silver Jewelry

The purpose of this blog entry is to help a buyer/collector identify the silver content of jewelry based on the silver marks present on the jewelry. It will be helpful for you to have a jeweler’s 10X magnification loupe on hand. These can actually be purchased right here on eBay and are very helpful for identifying jewelry marks.

My guide is quite simple. There are a couple of excellent web sites out there with a world of knowledge. If you Google “Silver Marks”, you’ll probably find some excellent resources.

First, look on the back of your jewelry for any silver stamps.

What is sterling silver? Sterling silver is silver that is 925/1000 parts silver. Pure silver is too soft for jewelry making so the highest silver content usually (but not always) found in silver jewelry is .925.

Since the early 1900s, American sterling jewelry has been required to have a sterling mark if it is truly sterling silver. In my experience, older sterling is stamped “STERLING” usually on the back of the piece of jewelry. Sometimes you might see a portion of the word, such as “STER”. This might be because the jewelry was stamped this way or it might have worn away over years of wear.
Newer sterling silver jewelry is often stamped “925”. Again, this stamp is meant to convey the silver content of the jewelry. I’ve also seen “SS” stamped on a few pieces, but this is rare.

I’ve seen a 950 mark on vintage jewelry once in a while. Usually, it’s been on Mexican sterling before WWII era. 950 silver does have a higher silver content than sterling but is not seen too often.

On older and antique jewelry, you might see a 900 stamp. This is meant to show that the jewelry is 900/1000 parts silver. Not quite as high a silver content as sterling. Coin silver can literally mean silver made from melted down coins.
Vintage Native American jewelry may often not have a silver content mark on it. Often this jewelry may have a silver content in the range of coin silver.

4. 800 SILVER
Sometimes, you’ll see an 800 stamp on a piece of vintage silver jewelry. This means that the content of the jewelry is 4/5 silver.
Many times, based on the style of the piece and the 800 stamp, this will point my jewelry research toward European jewelry or other foreign makers. I’ve seen vintage silver filigree jewelry with an 800 mark.

Commercial silver test kits are available for silver (and gold) jewelry. These are probably available on eBay. I personally do not use these. If I have a question about my vintage jewelry after I’ve exhausted my own research, I take a trip down to see my favorite jeweler for his advice.

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eBay Feedback Changes Are Bad For Sellers

Did you know that there are 295,000 entries in under the term “eBay sucks”?

How did I know this? Because one day I got so frustrated by a bad selling experience that I googled the term and found that my anger had a lot of company.

Why are so many people (mainly sellers) angry at eBay? Because it seems like eBay’s policy changes are increasingly stacked against the seller… Now, don’t get me wrong. Selling on eBay has been great for me over the years. But recent changes to eBay’s policies make me feel as if eBay has forgotten that there are TWO sides in every transaction.

When I first heard of eBay, way back in 1988, I was totally skeptical. How could I sell something to a total stranger way across the country and expect things to go well? Remember, this way long before electronic payment services like Paypal. What would I do if someone bounced a check? I couldn’t go and hunt bad check writers down.

Surprisingly, though, eBay DID work. The feedback system allowed both sides of the transaction to leave feedback on how things went. Yes, there were/are a small number of people who would leave undeserved negative feedback for each other, but for the most part it worked. Well, a few months ago, eBay changed the feedback system so that the buyers have 100% of the power.

Now, sellers can no longer leave negative feedback for a buyer. Trust me….there are some buyers who DESERVE negative feedback. If a buyer wins one of my auctions and never responds to my emails and never pays me, I cannot let other sellers know through negative feedback. The new system allows me to open a “Dispute Console” (how wimpy is that?) and, if the buyer ultimately does not pay, they have one positive point removed. Pleeeeeeease….. What about buyers who want to buy on approval, are rude, try to say that the package never arrived or arrived broken and then refuse to send the package back or show me a photo of the broken piece? Yes, it happens.

Also, eBay has broken down seller feedback into four points (Item Description, Communication, Shipping Time, Shipping Charges). Perfection is expected of a seller. It has not caused me to do business any differently, because I already lived and died by feedback. But it’s dispiriting as hell.

In my opinion, eBay has gotten too far away from what made it work in the first place — an honor system of feedback that allowed both sides to rate the transaction.

Toilet photo courtesy of

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Websites That Identify Vintage Costume Jewelry From Makers’ Marks or Stamps

You’ve just obtained a beautiful vintage costume jewelry pin! You’d like to know how old it is and who made it. If you spend enough time around vintage costume jewelry, you’ll begin to see that most manufacturers had styles, patterns and techniques that were specific to that maker. But without looking at anything else, many times it’s possible to identify a piece of jewelry solely by the stamps/names/maker’s marks on back.

There are a couple of web sites that are incredibly helpful in identifying makers’ marks and learning about the jewelry makers. My favorite is Illusion Jewels website. This site lists many makers, the dates they were in business, and lots of photos of their marks. I use this site almost every day.

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry is a gorgeous site which shows photos of some marks but also has many reference pages with photos of classic vintage jewelry such as Trifari, Eisenberg, Miriam Haskell.

A site which is great for researching letters and symbols stamped on chains and jewelry. It’s called “Ornament, Jewelry and Accessory”. This site has a different page for every letter of the alphabet, and these pages don’t appear to be linked. To find a page for each letter of the alphabet, change the last letters in “OJAS” on the web address to the proper letter of the alphabet. So, for letter A, I change the address to “OJAA”.

There is a website which is a virtual museum of Classic Trifari jewelry from before 1960. N&N Vintage Jewelry sells Trifari and other makers but their photos and info are fantastic. Check this site out!

Another thing that I do with good results is to Google the heck out of a jewelry mark. If I’ve exhausted my favorite web sites and cannot find info, I’ll Google a description of the mark. There are many marks which are just letters and symbols. I’ll literally describe this mark on Google and see what pops up. Sometimes I’m able to find the makers from this technique.

And, of course, eBay is an excellent resource. Once I’ve identified my jewelry, I always check out Current and Completed auctions to see what things are selling for.

There are many more helpful sites out there, and I’ve barely even touched on the subject. I’ll talk more in later blogs.