Silver standards

There are many different standards of millesimal fineness for the silver alloys used in the manufacture or crafting of silver products.


Fine silver has a millesimal fineness of 999. Also called pure silver, or three nines fine, fine silver contains 99.9% silver, with the balance being trace amounts of impurities. Fine silver is too soft for general use, but where lower quality silver is not available, it is still used by local craftsmen in India.

Contemporary screw-top bottle handmade in Narlai, Rajasthan, India from pure silver 999 


Britannia silver has a millesimal fineness of at least 958. The alloy is 95.84% pure silver and 4.16 per cent copper or other metals. Britain introduced the Britannia standard in 1697 because British sterling silver coins were being melted down to make silver items which could then be sold at a decent profit. The Britannia standard lasted from 1697 and 1720, when the sterling silver standard was restored. All Queen Anne silver (she reigned 1702-1714) is Britannia standard. It remained an optional standard.

Underside of Queen Anne Britannia Silver Dish, London 1708


The French 1st standard has a millesimal fineness of 950. It is 95% silver and 5 per cent copper or other metals. Most French silver is dated after the French Revolution and the 1st standard mark from 1838 to 1962 is Minerva in an octagonal frame. The marks are often very small. Even before the revolution, silver had been in crisis. Both Louis XIV and Louis XV issued edicts demanding the silver items were returned to be melted down by the State Treasury. But a few pieces survive as gentlemen held onto their precious snuff boxes.

Louis XV silver gilt snuff box,

Paris 1772


91 zolotnik Russian silver has a millesimal fineness of 947.9. The zolotnik (Russian золотник), from the Russian zoloto or золото, meaning gold) was used in Russia as early as the 11th century to denote the weight of gold coins. In its earliest usage, the zolotnik was 1/96 of a pound, but it later was changed to represent 1/72 of a pound. Ninety-one (91) zolotniks have the equal millesimal fineness of 947[9]. Thus, the alloy contains 94.79% pure silver and 5.21 per cent copper or other metals.



935 purity was used in the Art Deco period in Austria and Germany. Scandinavian silver jewellers used 935 silver after the 2nd World War.

Art Deco German inkwell with guilloche enamel. Marked 935


Sterling silver has a millesimal fineness of 925 - 92.5% pure silver. The UK has used this alloy from the early 12th century. It was also used by Canada, Australia and other countries associated with the British Empire and the Commonwealth), from the 19th century up to the mid-20th century when debasement took place. Sterling silver’s copper content means that it has a stronger tendency to tarnish than other alloys used in coins.



88 zolotnik Russian silver has the equivalent millesimal fineness of 916[6]. It contains 91.66% pure silver.



84 zolotnik is the most common fineness for Russian silver. 84 zolotnik has the equivalent millesimal fineness of 875 - 87.5% pure silver



Some German and Dutch silver is 83.5% pure silver


You will find a lot of Scandinavian silver with a millesimal fineness of 830 - 83% pure silver.

Persian silver sailing ship, marked 925

Antique enamelled silver napkin ring with Russian zolotnik 84 mark, Moskow 1899-1908

Georg Jensen silver berry spoon (design 141), 1929, marked GJ 830S, three towers mark 22 (1922) and initial mark of Assay Master (Stadtsguardein)


Much of German silver will be marked with a millesimal fineness of 800 - 80% pure silver, including Hanau silver. Any items just marked ‘German silver’, ‘nickel silver’ or ‘Alpaca’ have no silver content at all, but are alloys of base metals.


The French 2nd standard for silver is 800, compared with the 950 fineness 1st standard. the 2nd standard mark from 1838 to 1962 is Minerva in a barrel-shaped frame.


Italian silversmiths used 800 silver in the 20th Century.

Jean L. Schlinghoff cow creamer, Hanau 1900/1910, 770gm of 800 silver

Vintage Italian silver centrepiece bowl 24.5cm dia., Padua

marked 800, maker’s mark and PD (Padova)

Rare Vintage Adriana Benazzi Necessaire, Florence

marked 800, maker’s mark and Fi (Firenze)

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