If you love sterling silver jewelry from Mexico, you’ve probably seen some of the various silver hallmarks on their jewelry. A little research can help you determine what the markings mean and even help with dating the piece. Here is an overview of Mexican silver markings to get you started.
Modern Silver Hallmarks
Modern sterling silver pieces from Mexico, and much of the world, are typically marked with the 925 hallmark. The numbers 925 stand for 92.5% pure silver. This is the minimum amount of pure silver required for the jewelry to be called “sterling silver”. There are also some pieces marked 999, which stands for 99.9% pure silver. These nearly pure silver pieces are also called “fine silver”. In Mexico, both marks are used frequently. You might also see jewelry marked 950 or 980 for 95% and 98%, respectively.
Many older pieces were marked, “Sterling” or “Silver” rather than with a number, though a few silversmiths continue to use the sterling designation instead of the numbers. If your piece is marked sterling, it is most likely a vintage item. To determine the age, you’ll need to look for other markings on the piece.
Vintage Silver Hallmarks
Before 1920, many silver pieces were made of 90% pure silver and marked 900. It would be rare to find a newer piece made of 900 silver as sterling became the minimum purity buyers expected. From the 1920’s to the 1940’s many pieces were marked, “Made in Mexico” or “Mexico Silver.”
In 1948, Mexico instituted a standard hallmarking system using an eagle outline with a number in the middle. The number on the eagle designated who produced the item or where it was produced. An eagle with a number “1” in the middle was the mark for Mexico City and the number “3” was for Taxco. Some numbers can be traced back to specific regions or makers, however the marks were often borrowed by other makers and eventually became unreliable. There is no known record of all the numbers and what they designated.
The type of eagle mark can help narrow down the year of production. The first eagle mark, used until 1955, showed a delineated eagle with more details. The second, used until the 1970’s, was an incuse mark with a simple outline of an eagle.
In 1979, the Mexican government abandoned the eagle marking system and switched to a letters and numbers system. The first letter indicated the city and the second, the first letter of the artist’s last name. The numbers to the right of the hyphen indicate the registration order by last name. For example, TS-41 indicates an item was made in Taxco by the 41st silversmith registered with a last name starting in S. Unfortunately, there is no record of which number belongs to which smith and only a handful are known.
There are also thousands of individual makers marks and initial sets used by silversmiths across Mexico. Some of the most well-known can be found on this guide of hallmarks, but most are not possible to identify.
While there are no comprehensive lists to identify pieces, you can use the markings you see as clues to narrowing down the age of your Mexican silver jewelry.