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Identifying silver medals


#1

I recently obtained 2 peices of what apprears to be silver medals of
some sort. I was told they were sterling silver from France yet there
is no .925 stamp, sterling stamp or anything like that. There is
however a little bell symbol stamped into the right bottom corner.
The medals themselves have a strange 3a symbol on them as well. I
don’t have a silver test kit, but the 18k gold testing acid which
includes nitric and muriatic acid turned the metal green, rather
than cream color. Is this an acurate enough test?


#2
but the 18k gold testing acid which includes nitric and muriatic
acid turned the metal green, rather than cream color. Is this an
acurate enough test? 

While the muriatic/hydrochloric content of the 18K acid makes the
reaction to silver a bit weird, there’s no way sterling silver or
anything near to it should turn green. That either means a lot of
copper, or nickel or both. Your medals might have been electroplated
with rhodium over sterling, and nickel is often used as an underplate
between the silver and the rhodium, so if the rhodium wasn’t thick
enough to block the acid, then the nickel underneath might give you
that reaction. But then the medals wouldn’t really look like silver
color either, since both rhodium and nickel are a quite different
color to the eye than is silver. And while possible, this situation
seems like a bit of a stretch…

My guess is that the metals are not sterling silver at all, but
rather some base metal. Most likely nickel silver or something like
that. This would also explain why there’s not an obvious quality
mark.

Peter


#3

The French had a funny assay system that recognises several different
finenesses to its silver. The commonest silver assay in France in the
recent past used to be.900 but could be .666, .750, .800, .835, .925
and .916. The number will tell you which of thse applies. The bell
indicates the town of assay and represents several places according
to the exact countermark and the piece’s age. Beware of marks looking
like a hallmark but are not.

Nick Royall