Metal for Resale: A Guide to Silver Purity Grades

Buying silver for resale is a rewarding, potentially lucrative pastime or investment idea, and Everything But The House makes light work of shopping for heavy metal online. With access to a wide range of items from estate sales and coin and jewelry collections, there’s no shortage of buying options. To maximize your resale potential, it helps know what you’re looking for and how much you should pay for it. Doing some research into silver purity grades gives you a firm foundation of knowledge to help you build an investment portfolio or dabble in buying metal for resale.

Understanding Silver Alloys

Silver is a very soft metal, so it’s rarely used in its purest form. In most cases, silver jewelry, coins, and bullion are comprised of a silver alloy created by blending additional materials with the pure silver while it’s in a molten state. In most cases, silver alloy is a combination of silver and copper, and there may be some other trace elements resulting from natural impurities in the silver at a molecular level. The proportion of actual silver content defines the object’s purity or fineness — and therefore its price.

What Is The Silver Standard

The silver standard is a decimal measuring system for defining the purity of silver. It works by representing the amount of pure silver measured in 1/1000 parts per gram. For example, a silver alloy of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper is .925 silver, meaning that for every one gram of alloy, there’s .925 grams of silver — that’s why you’ve probably seen the .925 engraving on the inside of a ring or the clasp of a necklace before. An alloy comprising 90% silver and 10% copper is .900 silver and contains .900 grams of silver per gram of alloy. Most silver manufacturers use these numbers as fineness marks to indicate the purity of the alloy so it’s easier for buyers to identify and verify goods.

Silver Purity Grades

The silver standard that most people are familiar with, and the material that most people think of when they hear the word “silver,” is sterling silver. Sterling Silver is a common standard for jewelry. The sterling silver alloy is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper (.925 silver). There are many other common silver grades, including:

.999 (fine silver) – Pure silver, with only trace metals from natural impurities
.9584 (Britannia silver) – Silver containing 4.16% copper
.900 (coin silver)Coin Silver refers to the silver used in U.S. coins before 1965, such as quarters, dimes, half dollars, and silver dollars
.800800 Silver is a lower grade silver commonly found in flatware, antique servingware and some antique decorative jewelry

Fineness Marks

Fineness marks on silver products indicate their purity, and they’re the first thing you should look at to ascertain a piece’s quality. These marks are usually numeric, but some manufacturers use words instead.

Numeric marks – A numeric fineness mark is simply the notation of the purity expressed in parts per thousandth. For example, the numeric mark for Sterling silver is “925” and the numeric mark for coin silver is “900.”
Word marks – The two most common word marks in the United States are “Sterling” and “Coin.” Sterling silver may also have the mark “STG” or just “Silver.”
Hallmarks – Hallmarks don’t appear on silver produced in the United States. The hallmarks are special symbols that indicate an official assayer — a person who has analyzed an alloy to determine the quantity of each metal present — has inspected and guaranteed the purity of the silver. Hallmarks help you verify the authenticity of a piece because it’s very easy to add a fineness mark on non-silver products. Reputable sellers like EBTH are able to ensure the authenticity of the hallmarks on the silver items they have available.

It’s illegal to add fineness marks that misrepresent the true purity of a piece, but that doesn’t stop some people doing it. Furthermore, be aware that some marks such as “SP,” “EP,” and “Plate” indicate an item is silver-plated rather than solid silver.

Knowing What Silver to Buy

When you’re valuing silver items, there are two aspects to consider: the weight value of the silver and the appeal of the object itself. Rare silver coins often command a premium with collectors that’s far in excess of the plain value of the silver used to make the coins, but reselling coins relies on finding a coin collector (numismatist) who sees the value of the collectible item. Silver bullion is often a solid investment; it holds its value based on its actual precious metal content, not on the whims of collectors. It’s easy to get distracted by the beauty and artistry of some vintage silver items, but it pays to be objective when the aim of the game is reselling for profit. Purchasing based on weight value makes it easier to gauge the return on your investment.

Coins – Because the federal government mints silver coins, you can buy with confidence knowing that the stated weight and purity are accurate. Proof coins are special editions of silver coins and have an additional value as collectibles. Condition is a factor with collectible coins, and the process of coin grading determines their value.
Junk silver – Investing in “junk” may sound like you’re buying garbage, but don’t be put off by the name. Junk silver is simply the term for coins minted before 1965, which have a purity of .900. Junk is usually less expensive than other forms of silver.
Silver rounds – Rounds look like coins, but private companies produce them. They’re usually less expensive than coins.
Silver Bars – Silver bars only have value for their weight and purity, with no appeal to collectors. This makes them stable long-term investments.

How to Buy Silver Online

Primed with a thorough knowledge of silver purity grades, it’s time to start shopping for your precious metal investment! There’s no better place to begin your search than Everything But The House. With auctions ranging from silver flatware and candlesticks to bullion and coins, you’re sure to find something packed with history, cherished by its previous owner, and fit for profit.