Art Nouveau
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Post  AshleyDominique Fri Nov 06, 2009 9:35 am

i'm considering the purchase of an art nouveau jewelry item. both the chain & repoussé pendant are unmarked but are said to "test positive for sterling". three questions:
• does silverplate test positive for sterling?
• was silverplating being done during the art nouveau era?
• it is possible for a item from the art nouveau period to be not marked silver even though it truly is?

thanks for any informed answers!

I'm kinda confuse Kissmark

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Join date : 2009-11-06
Age : 43
Location : Atlanta, Georgia

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I'm kinda confuse Empty EPNS versus 925 sterling silver

Post  stella Fri Nov 06, 2009 9:46 pm

Hello and welcome!

Some very good questions! You can allways send me a photo directly without posting it on the forum. I can have a jewellery expert have a look at it for you.

I have allready done some googling for you :

Question 1: I don't have any experience, but if the test has been done with chemicals (as mentioned below) the silver will react differently than silverplate.

Question 2: Yes, EPNS was used during the Art Nouveau period:

Electroplated Silver

The process of electroplating developed in the 1840's and simpley binds a fine layer of silver to the base metal. Again getting an accurate date is not really possible as there are no date letters stamped on the pieces. EPNS or electroplated silver can be identified as it is usually stamped as such, although some times there are no marks. The letters EPNS stand for electroplated nickle silver, and EPNS is the most common stamp found on electroplated silver, but there are many others. Collecting EPNS is can be both inexpensive and rewarding, due to the huge variety of pieces avalible from the 1840's to the present day. You can chose to collect, a type of item: candlesticks, ashtrays, baskets, cutlery, or a style' Art Deco or Art Nouveau EPNS pieces are wonderful and relatively inexpensive. Equally, electroplated silver pieces produced by quality silver smiths are highly sought after and command high prices, these can be identified from the makers mark.

Source: Identifying Sterling Sheffield Plate & EPNS Silver

Question 3: Yes, in the USA it is possible that sterling silver has not been marked according to below mentioned thread:

About The Marking Of Sterling Silver Products
According to United States Federal Regulations

The first law regulating the stamping of silver products was enacted by the Massachusetts legislature in 1894 followed by several other states before the National Stamping Act was passed by Congress in 1906 and put into effect in June 13, 1907. This law, enhanced and amended several times over the years, provides the basis for regulating the marking and stamping of silver products.

Sterling Silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. Sterling components and jewelry made in the USA are often stamped Sterling. Goods made for international trade are often marked .925 indicating 92.5% fineness.

The 1906 act required that any product marked "sterling" or "coin" must contain 925 per 1000 parts pure silver for "sterling" and 900 per 1000 parts pure silver for "coin" silver, permitting a divergence of only 4 parts per 1000 from this standard. An amendment in 1961 required also the maker's trademark to be stamped next to the silver standard mark.

Mexican Silver, German Silver, Indian Silver, Montana Silver, or simply Silver do not guarantee any silver content. German Silver is another name for the alloy of Copper, Nickel and Zinc usually called Nickel Silver. Nickel Silver contains no silver.

In many countries, precious metal must be stamped with a quality mark such as .925 for sterling. Some countries require that jewelry of precious metal be submitted to a governmental assay office for appropriate testing before being marked and sold.

In the USA, The National Gold and Silver Marketing Act DOES NOT require precious metals to be marked with quality. However, if a quality mark is used, the National Stamping Act, as amended, not only requires the use of trademarks, but also specifically requires the registration of such a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). In spite of the law, many regularly used marks on American jewelry are not yet registered trademarks.

For many reasons, not all silver jewelry is marked. Registering a trademark with the U.S. Government is expensive and requires ongoing vigilance to ensure that the trademark is not misappropriated.[/b]

Additionally, as in the case of many of our pieces, the sizes or designs of some pieces do not lend themselves to quality marking. Findings and components are often not quality stamped.


1. US Federal law does not require precious metal to be marked with a quality stamp.

2. Some European countries DO require marking.

3. If goods are quality marked, US law requires a maker's mark in the form of a hallmark or registered trademark in addition to the quality mark.

Sterling Silver is very easy to test. Silver plated brass, nickel silver or low quality silver alloys will turn green when a drop of Nitric acid is applied. Sterling will turn a creamy color. Testing kits made specifically to test sterling silver are available from many jewelry supply companies.

The above Federal information can be viewed online at:


How do you test for sterling silver?

Hope this information helps! And don't forget that you can allways ask a second opinion from another jeweller or auctioneer!



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Post  AshleyDominique Mon Nov 09, 2009 3:02 am

oh thank you for that information. You've been very helpful.

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