There are several different numbers you might find on German flatware...
German solid silver or "echtsilber" is most often stamped 800. This means 800/1000 or 80% pure, which is the minimum German standard. Sterling silver is an English standard and means at least 925/1000 or at least 92.5% pure. The 90 stamped on German "versilbert" (silver plate) does not mean the piece is "90/1000" silver, which would hardly be silver, at all.
For numbers on silver plate, it's important to understand what is meant by a "standard plate lot," which is a dozen table forks and spoons. For German flatware, the standard is to use 90 grams of silver to electroplate one standard plate lot. Such silver plate is stamped "90." Lower grades (e.g., 40 and 60) have a thinner layer of plating and wear through to base metal rather quickly; higher standards (e.g., 100 to 150) have a thicker plating and may still not see wear through after many decades of use. Obviously, the higher the grade, the more expensive the silver plate, both originally and in the antique/vintage market.
In addition to the thickness number, pieces of German silver-plated flatware may have a number in a lozenge or box after the "90" stamp. For place pieces, this will be the number of grams of silver used to plate a dozen of this particular piece. For example, typical numbers would be 18 to 21 grams for a dozen teaspoons or cake forks. Serving pieces will carry lower numbers, for example, 4 to 8 for a serving spoon or ladle. This is the number of grams of silver used to plate that one piece.
I have yet to see a piece of German flatware that has a number or any other code or mark indicating the modell or muster (i.e., style or pattern). On the other hand, most 20th century German flatware will carry a manufacturer's mark. With the manufacturer known, you can research catalogs to identify the pattern and, especially, when the pattern was active.
I researched the WMF patterns at Synder's Treasures and found several that weren't even issued until years after their alleged owner was dead, so it pays to do your homework when it comes to vintage silver, especially allegedly "Nazi" silver.
Hope this helps.
04-21-2016 03:45 AM
Very informative DianaGaleM and then throw into the mix, genuine period tableware thats been embellished or adorned with insignia