60-Second Silver: Housemarks vs. Hallmarks

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Q. What’s the difference between a hallmark, housemark, and a maker’s mark?

These terms are commonly confused…

Hallmark: A mark or series of marks stamped or laser-engraved by a country’s assay office indicating the quality of the precious metal tested (“Sterling,” “.925,” “.840,” “.800,” or an image of a “rampant lion” — indicating sterling as used in Great Britain). The object may also contain the country, assay office, maker’s mark, housemark, date mark, duty mark, etc.

Housemark: A mark stamped or laser-engraved by the company (e.g., “Gorham,” “Reed & Barton,” “Tiffany,” “Kalo”) that created the object for its own line or for a retailer (e.g., “Shreve, Crump & Low,” “J.E. Caldwell Co.”). In addition, there may  also be a maker’s mark, indicating the company’s craftsman who created or oversaw the creation of the object.

Maker’s Mark: The name or artistic mark stamped, engraved, or laser-engraved on an object created by an individual silversmith or jeweler.

Q. Why won’t polishing remove turquoise-colored corrosion?

This color indicates that the piece is probably plated and not a solid silver alloy. If this is the case, the area that is corroded would have to be selectively plated or the entire piece re-plated. Do not try to remove the corrosion yourself as it may harm the value of the object. ?

Jeffrey Herman encourages anyone with silver-related questions that can’t be answered on his Web site hermansilver.com to contact him. He may be reached at 800-339-0417or jeff@hermansilver.com or at PO Box 786, West Warwick, RI 02893.

Jeffrey Herman started Herman Silver Restoration & Conservation in 1984, and has repaired and reconstructed everything from historically important tankards, tea services, and tureens to disposal-damaged flatware. Herman has worked at Gorham as a designer, sample maker, and technical illustrator and at Pilz Ltd., where he learned the fine art of restoration. Herman has a BFA degree in silversmithing and is the founder of the Society of American Silversmiths.


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