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We are all familiar with the soft white beauty and reflective quality of silver. In its pure state, though, silver is considered too soft to use for jewelry manufacture. This fine grade silver is what constitutes silver bullion bars.

To increase strength for practical purposes, copper is usually added in varying proportions which gives rise to the different grades of purity.

This purity of the silver is validated by the Assay office and the item is then stamped with a special hallmark to show it complies with legal standards.

Although hallmarking as we understand it today began in France in the 13th century, official stamps guaranteeing quality of precious metals were used in Ancient Egypt and in Roman times. In England, about 1300, items made from precious metal had to be brought to the guild hall of goldsmiths, Goldsmith's Hall, in London to test for purity. They were then officially stamped with the mark of the Goldsmith's Hall. Hence the origin of the name 'hallmark'. A leopard's head inside a shield was the first mark of the established assay office in England.

The grade of sterling silver refers to items containing a minimum of 925 parts per 1000 of pure silver and the British hallmark for this is the 'Lion Rampart'. In the USA, hallmarking began in Baltimore in 1814 and silver items are stamped with '925' or 'sterling' to guarantee this purity. The '925' mark has since been adopted by many other countries.
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