Online Encyclopedia of Silver Marks, Hallmarks & Makers' Marks
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Korean Hallmarks ~ from 1910

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The Silver Marks of Korea
by David Ross
Silver, mined on the Korean Peninsula since ancient times, was an important commodity in trade with neighboring countries for at least a thousand years. During the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) and earlier, silver was used, usually only sparingly, as a thin layer over bronze or as inlay into intricate designs on iron vessels; such pieces were not hallmarked. Although small objects in solid silver became more common in the 19th century, a system of marking silver was only established after the annexation of Korea in 1910.

With the annexation of Korea by the Japanese Empire, silver marks without indication of purity, loosely patterned after those used in Japan, came into use. Additional marks indicating a retailer or maker are rare. Presentation boxes and packaging usually include the name of the retailer and sometimes the maker. Very few luxury items, including silver, were produced after the Japanese Empire transitioned to a total war economy in 1938.
note: In the far east, “pure silver” is generally regarded to mean .900 purity and above.

1. “pure silver” in Chinese characters. Usually written (as here) from right to left, but may also be written left to right. The same mark was used in Japan.
2. “silver” in one Chinese character. May indicate a purity below .900
3. “silver / silver” Chinese character and Korean alphabet (hangul) mark, in use until c.1960, this mark is sometimes seen stamped in conjunction with the hangul “pure silver” mark.
4. “pure silver” in hangul, still in use today.


One notable exception of a pre-WWII maker’s mark is the Korea Fine Arts Workshop [A] in Seoul (called “Keijo” at this time by the Japanese), which marked with a stylized Chinese character [B].

With Japan's defeat in WWII and Korea gaining its independence, the hangul “pure silver” became the most common mark. In the Republic of Korea, from the 1960s on, a variety of marks indicate solid silver. These may be used in conjunction with secondary marks that indicate the metal's purity. Since the 1990s, makers’ and retailers’ marks are increasingly adopted, but not required. There is no national mark for Korean silver.

1. “pure silver” in hangul (Korean alphabet), still in use today
2. “silver” in hangul.
3. “silver / pure silver” English text with hangul mark.
4. “pure silver” in hangul, with AG (argentum) 99 to indicate 99% pure silver.
5. “silver” in hangul, with 990 to indicate 99% pure silver.
6. “silver” in English text, with 800 to indicate 80% pure silver. Not shown but sometimes seen is the English abreviation "STG" used to indicate sterling silver.
7. On pieces made of parts with different purities, two numerical standard marks may be stamped, the numbers may appear with or without the % symbol.

Secondary marks indicating purity include:
Numerals: 70, 80, 90, 99 (i.e, the percent of silver)
Percentiles: 70% 80% 90% 92.5% 97%, 98%, 99%
Thousandths: 700, 800, 900, 990, 999

The above sampling of mark illustrations is by no means exhaustive, it should be noted that these basic marks have been used in numerous varied combinations.

Related Pages at
World Hallmarks
British Hallmarks Explained
Dutch Hallmarks
German Hallmarks pre-1886
German Hallmarks post-1886
French Hallmarks
Swedish Hallmarks
Finnish Hallmarks
Norwegian Makers
David-Andersen Marks
Georg Jensen Marks

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