Stack Terms: Silver FINENESS, What Do Those 9s Mean Anyhow!?

10 months ago
2 Min Read
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I've been posting some silver stacking basic info lately which has been fun as I have learned on the way as well. So today I thought I would talk about silver fineness, specifically investment silver (coins, rounds, bars, etc...)

1oz of .999 fine silver minted by the Anonymous Mint.

Millesimal fineness is a system of denoting the purity of platinum, gold and silver alloys by parts per thousand of pure metal by mass in the alloy. For example, an alloy containing 92.5% silver is denoted as "925"(also known as "sterling silver").

Here is a chart from the Wikipedia page titled "fineness".

Silver Fineness

  • 999.99—five nines fine: The purest silver ever produced. This was achieved by the Royal Silver Company of Bolivia.
  • 999.9—four nines fine: ultra-fine silver used by the Royal Canadian Mint for their Silver Maple Leaf and other silver coins
  • 999—fine silver or three nines fine: used in most current silver bullion coins & bars
  • 980: common standard used in Mexico ca. 1930–45
  • 958: Britannia silver
  • 950: French 1st Standard
  • 925: Sterling silver equivalent to "plata de primera ley" in Spain (first law silver)
  • 917: a standard used for the minting of Indian silver (rupees), during the British raj
  • 900: one nine fine, coin-silver, or 90% silver: all U.S. silver coins from 1837–1964

U.S. Coinage Before 1965

All United States coins (except pennies) were made of 90% silver (.900 fineness) up to and including the year 1964. So if you happen to find a U.S. coin dated 1964 or earlier hold on to that sucker, it's worth more than the face value! This value is called the "melt value" and we'll dive into that term in another post, just hold on to that coin for now.

999 or .999

Investment silver is almost always .999 fineness or 99.9% pure silver. Most often you will see a decimal point (.) in front of the three 9's but sometimes not, it means the same thing, 99.9% pure silver, and 0.1% "impurities".

When we talk about impurities we are talking about impurities that naturally occur in silver at the molecular level. These impurities consist of other metals - usually copper, but traces of other metals can also be found.

These trace impurities are insignificant and would be too costly to remove so .999 silver is considered pure. Let's take a look at some .999 fine silver.

Silver Shield Freedom 2oz Silver Round.

The reverse of the Freedom round, note the weight and purity in the middle.

Again, notice the weight and purity stamped across the middle of this National Refiners bar.

I hope you are enjoying these back to basics precious metal posts. Catch ya on the flip side...