Pieces marked only Sterling under 7.78 grams?


I’m new to the forum, having joined to seek help with a specific question I have concerning the use of the word ‘Sterling’ on items of British silver which weigh less than 7.78 grams.

I’m aware that it is currently legal in the UK to mark items under 7.78 grams as Sterling, without any accompanying hallmarks, but I’m trying to discover exactly when this practice started, preferably the exact date or year, but at the least whether it was done prior to 1945.

Many thanks,


I am away from my references at the moment. If no one else replies I will have look when I am at home this weekend. I have a feeling though that it was well before 1945. 7.78 grams is of course 1/4 troy ounce for anybody wondering why such a precise weight.

The Silver Plate Act of 1790 included a list of items exempt from hallmarking including all items under 5 pennyweights (= 1/4 troy ounce).

I don’t think my response answered the original query which was when the use of the word “sterling” started on un-hallmarked items. I got so interested in finding out about hallmarking exemptions that I quite lost sight of the real question.

As far as I know there are no regulations governing the use of additional marks on British silver so the word “sterling” could have been applied at any time and its presence or absence cannot be relied upon to suggest any sort of dating information. In addition “sterling” may have been stamped on items imported into other countries (particularly the USA) from Britain.