Basic knowledge of silver

Silver is a very soft metal.
100% silver is too soft, scratches and dents easily, and is not abrasion-resistant.
Another disadvantage is that if it is too soft, it will be difficult to process such as engraving.
Therefore, it is common to mix pure silver with other metals to make it easier to process and more durable, and use it as a silver alloy.
The metal to be mixed is called warigane , and copper is generally used.

The purity of gold is generally expressed in 24 parts, such as 18K and 14K, but in the case of silver, it is generally expressed in 1000 parts (per mil).
Sterling silver, which is common in antique silver, is 925/1000 (92.5%) .

In addition to those that use silver alloys, there are also items that are made of other metals covered with silver, called silver filled or silver plate.
Not only can it be manufactured at a lower cost than using only silver alloys, but it also has the advantage of being able to manufacture items that cannot be manufactured using silver alloys due to durability issues.

Types of silver purity

Sterling silver (925/1000)

This is the most common purity for British antique silver.
In Britain, it became legal quality in the 1300s, and British silver coins were minted in Stalins silver until 1920.
The official name of the British currency, the pound, is still the pound sterling.
Sterling (STERLING) has the meaning of "genuine" and "reliable".
When we hear the word "sterling silver", we think of 100% silver, but according to British law, sterling silver is defined as "pure silver", and even in the world of antique silver, if the purity is higher than sterling silver, it is written as "pure silver". is common.

Britannia Silver (958/1000)

In England, this was the legal grade used for minting silver coins from 1697 to 1720.
However, it seems that it was returned to its original form because it was too soft and difficult to process.
Items with a purity of 95% (950/1000) are sometimes collectively referred to as Britannia Silver.

Coin silver (900/1000)

Many European countries other than Britain and Germany minted silver coins with a purity of 90%.
It is often used for silver products outside of England and Germany.
Silver pocket watch cases made in Switzerland and America are often made of coin silver.

Continental Silver (800/1000)

It is also called "German silver" because it was mainly used in Germany.
However, the ``nickel silver'' mentioned below is also sometimes called German silver, so to avoid confusion, we use Continental silver instead.
However, silver products from continental Europe other than the UK are generally referred to as Continental silver, and in that case, the purity varies depending on the country of manufacture.
It is durable because it has a high proportion of copper (copper), but it may develop a blue rust called verdigris, which is a type of copper rust.

silver filled, silver plated

silver filled

The core is made of an alloy such as brass and is coated (crimped) with a silver alloy that weighs about 1/20 of the total weight.
The silver alloy is often sterling silver, and the weight ratio varies depending on the product.
The silver is much thicker than silver plate, and it rarely peels off.

Silver plate (electroplating)

It is called EPNS (electro plated nickel silver), and it is made by applying silver plating to a nickel alloy using electricity.
Its history is surprisingly long, having been manufactured since the 1830s.
There is also a silver plated Britannia metal (pewter) called EPBM (electro plated Britannia Metal).

sheffield plate

It is made of copper plated with silver instead of a nickel alloy.
It was invented around 1742 by Thomas Bowlsover, a cutler in Sheffield, England.
Before the introduction of electroplating, "Old Sheffield" was made by pressing sheets of silver together using heat.
Old Sheffield pieces that have been polished to reveal a copper color in the thinner areas have a unique beauty and are popular with antique collectors.


nickel silver

It is an alloy composed of copper, zinc, and nickel, and is also called "nickel silver," "nickel silver," or "german silver."
Japan's 500 yen hardening is this nickel silver.
Because it is white silver in color, it is used for cutlery, etc., but it does not contain any physical silver.


It is an old alloy whose main component is tin, also known as ``shirome'' and ``Britannia metal.''
Other than tin, it contains antimony, lead, copper, etc.
It has a low melting point of 250℃, making it easy to process, and it has a long history dating back at least 2,000 years. Guilds have existed in England since the 14th century.
Although the color is similar to silver, it also does not contain silver as a substance.


A decorative technique in which black alloys such as copper, silver, and lead are inlaid into the grooves of engravings.
It is often used to decorate silverware because of the beautiful contrast between silver and black.
Niero ornaments from Russia (Kiev Rus) are especially famous.


There are various types of silver depending on the history and purpose of each country.
It doesn't just have to be high purity.
Also, since there is silver as a substance and silver as a color, the usage of words can be confusing.
Although the meanings are often inconsistent or confused, I think that once you understand the words introduced here, you will enjoy antique silver even more.