When creating jewellery and tableware, precious metal is usually stamped to mark both the chemical composition of the metal and the origin of the piece.
There are many variations on this theme, based on what country the piece is from, and in which era it was made. There are thousands of stamps. Here in Australia, the following symbols are used to denote the composition of precious metals.
Because I work in sterling silver, the stamp you will find on my pieces is 925. This denotes that the content of the metal is not less than 92.5% pure silver. You may be wondering – the other 7.5% is copper. Sterling silver is used because fine silver (100% silver) is very soft and malleable, and won’t retain its shape properly when worked.
Stamps are applied to the metal by holding the stamp onto the metal, and giving the end of the stamp one blow with a large hammer! The crooks in the handle of the stamp are there so that you can get the stamp inside rings.
My maker’s stamp is one that I designed myself, and was lucky enough to have my teacher at Goldsmith’s School create for me. I wanted to incorporate some of the many things that I am always drawn to, find beautiful and am inspired by, so the spiral and elements of the ocean are both prominent in my mark.
The history and intricacy of maker’s marks and hallmarking makes for some interesting googling, if you have the time. I wonder if many years down the track, some buff on the Antiques Roadshow will be shown one of my pieces, and wonder who created it?
Next time you are looking at jewellery or tableware, see if you can find the hallmarks, and work out what they mean!