Both gold and silver hold an important place in Indian households as it is considered auspicious during festive occasions. In addition to this, both these metals have been one of the favourite investment avenues for investors to earn satisfactory returns.
However, for centuries, the state has encountered challenges arising out of adulteration. Historically, various ruling dispensations tried to address these challenges by introducing identification marks or hallmarks to determine the purity of the metal.
However, a more formalised system of hallmarking for both these metals emerged in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. Many countries, including India, adopted the practice of hallmarking silver to achieve the following objectives:
Save consumers from adulteration in silver
Compel the jewellers and manufacturers to maintain legal standards of silver purity
Read on to know more about the history of silver hallmarks and how to check the purity of silver in India.
The earliest attempt of regulating the standards of silver was made by Henry III as early as 1238. An order was then passed to appoint six goldsmiths to oversee this craft in London. However, the first attempt at hallmarking silver dates back to the time of Edward I.
Edward I passed a statute in 1300 requiring the ‘Guardians of the Craft’ to go from shop to shop to oversee the purity standards. They were required to apply a leopard’s mark as identification for sterling silver, i.e., silver purity of 92.5%.
While silver hallmarks were earlier confined only to London, the assay offices were opened in other major centres of Britain in subsequent centuries. In the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, assay offices began functioning in Edinburgh and Dublin, respectively.
Later, new machines dramatically increased the production of silver in the sixteenth century. This led to a demand for new assay offices in Birmingham and Sheffield, which were opened after an Act passed by the British Parliament in 1773.
In subsequent centuries, many modifications were made to the silver hallmark identification system, such as the introduction of the maker’s mark. While the hallmarking system flourished in Britain, it was also adopted by other countries as well.
This culminated in the formation of an International Convention on Hallmarking which was signed in Vienna in 1972. There are 21 signatories to this convention. It facilitates the citizens of these countries to transport silver with a hallmark from one country to another without testing.
If you are wondering how to identify pure silver in India, there is a hallmarking system for silver in place. As per a government notification from 2017, silver has been subjected to the hallmarking system.
This system is managed by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). It conducts regular audits and random sample testing from the market to maintain qualified standards of silver purity.
Moreover, it has notified six different standards grades for silver:
Grade 925 hallmark
It is easier to understand these silver hallmarks with an example. If you purchase sterling silver, the Grade notified for it by BIS is ‘Grade 925’.
Sterling silver contains 92.5% of pure silver and 7.5% of other metals like zinc or copper mixed with it. Similarly, Grade 990 is the finest grade of silver as it will contain 99% of pure silver. However, unlike gold, the government has still not made hallmarking mandatory for silver jewellery, coins, or bars.
As mentioned above, silver hallmarks are not mandatory, but you can ask the jeweller to get a piece of jewellery hallmarked at the time of purchase. The jeweller will take the silver to the nearest BIS assaying centre for testing.
If the silver meets the BIS regulatory standards, it will be hallmarked by the centre. For the identification of silver marks by the BIS, you need to look for the following signs:
BIS Mark: The most trusted indicator of silver purity is the BIS mark. It is the logo of BIS which is a dot inside a triangle
Grade: The 3-digit number on the silver ornaments denotes its Grade, i.e., its fineness or purity
Year of Making: This denotes the year in which a particular silver item was manufactured
The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) engraves silver hallmarks. These hallmarks are the best silver hallmark.
The 3-digit number available on your silver jewellery is its Grade or fineness.
You can identify silver and its quality through its hallmark.
The highest rating of silver is Grade 990, which contains 99% of pure silver.
Yes, 925 silver can react with ozone and hydrogen, which can cause rusting in the long term.
You can check the BIS silver hallmark to check if your silver is real.
You can use a mixture of nitric acid and muriatic acid to determine your silver’s purity. As silver is not magnetic, you can also put it through a magnet test.
Grade 990 is real silver as it is the purest form of silver available in the market.
Sterling silver, i.e., Grade 925 is best for daily wear.