Identifying Sterling Silver Patterns 101

If you have a set of antique sterling silverware, you might be wondering what the pattern is or if what you have is actually an authentic set of sterling flatware. The first thing you’ll want to do is look for the Sterling name on the silverware. In most cases, you’ll find the word sterling on the back of each piece’s handle. In some cases, your silver may have a different identifying logo that is used to mark sterling pieces.

Antique Marking

Is There a Manufacturer’s Mark?

Next, you’ll want to determine which of the sterling silver patterns you have. There are a good number of these patterns. It can help if you can find the manufacturer’s identifying mark. This is often also located on the handle, although this may be a company logo and not a name. You can look online to find a catalog of the different sterling manufacturers and their related logos. Finding this logo is the easiest way of identifying your sterling silver patterns.

Antique Mark

Determine the Pattern

Once you’ve learned which manufacturer created your antique sterling silverware, you can determine the pattern. Again, the internet is a great resource for this. There are websites devoted to cataloging all of the different antique silverware markings out there, and these sites often include detailed images of the various patterns. All you need to do is look at the images available and see which one matches your silverware.

925 Silver

Tips for Silver Patterns Identification

If you’re having difficulty determining which silver pattern you have, here are a few additional tips that can help you narrow it down.

  • Polish your silverware if you’re having difficulty determining the manufacturer’s mark. Sometimes cleaning it can make it easier to identify.
  • Look for “925” or another number. This identifies how much of the piece is made from  bsterling.
  • Sometimes looking for antique silverware markings that show your flatware set is not sterling silver is just as helpful as looking for sterling marks. If you see “IS” or “A1” on your silverware, it indicates that the piece is silver-plated, not sterling silver.
  • There are some companies that provide silver patterns identification services. You take a clear picture of your silverware pattern and email or fax it to them. Their experts then help you determine the pattern.
  • Remember that some manufacturers changed their company marks over time, especially when a company was bought out or merged with another. If the mark you find doesn’t quite match the image you see online, continue your search into that manufacturer to see if they used a different mark at some point.

How Do I Know if My Christofle Silver is Silver vs. Silver Plate?

Do you have a prized Christofle silverware set that you save for special occasions? If so, it is quite possibly one of your most valuable possessions, but is it sterling silver? Christofle was responsible for an innovative new technology that created silver plated items, providing customers with luxury at a more affordable price. While both sterling and silver plated Christolfe pieces are beautiful, you’ll want to know the difference between the two, especially if you intend to sell your pieces in the future.

Evaluate the Silver Marks

Since the early 1800s, Charles Christofle used a series of unique markings in order to identify his products to the world. However, this mark has varied with time, so an experienced antique silver buyer is sometimes needed to identify exactly what the mark means. Early markings included the initials “GC” or “CC” along with a scale in the center. Later silver markings included the word “Gallia” above a cockerel for the Gallia silver range. Many pieces also include a stamp of the word “Christofle” next to the maker’s mark.

The markings can also distinguish silver versus silver plated pieces. A sterling silver mark on a Christofle piece will usually be printed as “925” – an indication that the piece is composed of 92.5% silver. If this mark isn’t present, or if there is another number (800, for example), you can feel confident that your item is actually plated rather than sterling silver.

Christofle silver marking

Use a Magnet

If the markings on your Christofle are no longer clear, you can perform a simple test at home that will give you a good idea about the silver composition. Silver does not have strong magnetic effects, so if you hold a magnet up to your Christofle and it sticks strongly, you should feel confident that the piece is only silver plated. Likewise, if the magnet doesn’t stick, it is more likely that you have a sterling silver piece.

If you aren’t confident that your silver piece is really Christofle, the magnet test won’t necessarily mean that you have a sterling silver piece. There are many other materials that aren’t magnetic and simply resemble silver, and other manufacturers use these metals to produce Christofle-esque items.

Listen for a Ring

Sterling silver tends to make a lovely sound similar to a bell ringing when you tap on it. This is especially true when you tap it with another type of metal. Plated silver will produce more of a dull, thumping sound.

Get a Professional Opinion

If you still aren’t completely sure about whether your Christofle piece is solid or silver plated, there are many professionals out there that can provide insight. An auctioneer, antique dealer or estate sale business could examine the item and tell you more about the origin and its composition.

Whether you have a Christofle silver plate, flatware, or another antique piece, the experienced Florida silver buyers at Antique Silver Buyers can help. In addition to telling you more about your piece, we will also provide you with a market analysis of the value.

Christofle Silver Plate Marks

Silver plating was a revolutionary innovation that was both developed and perfected by Christofle company founder C. Christofle. With silver plating, it suddenly became possible to democratize the trade of silversmithing in order to make beautiful silver pieces more affordable for customers. With silver plating, customers who had previously coveted items in the Christofle line, but were turned off by the price had a way to get the pieces they loved.

Silver plating was the heart of the Christofle legacy, and it could be used for every product category except for jewelry. However, even with silver plated items, it was still important that pieces be easily identifiable as part of the Christofle line. That’s why the company chose to use special hallmarks indicating the manufacturer and the amount of silver in the plating. Today, many customers have questions about the items in their collection and the amount of silver they contain.

 Standard Full Mark

The first Christofle standard full mark was used from 1841-1862. Sometimes referred to as the “CC” oval mark, this silver mark consists of an oval with a balance and the image of a bee in the center. On each side of the balance is a capital “C,” and the two letters stand for Charles Christofle. This oval marking is usually accompanied by several other marks:

  • The inscription “Christofle”
  • A number referring to the piece number in the production line
  • A number representing the silver content, with each digit in a separate box

Christofle Silver Plate Marks

The Evolution of the Silver Mark

Beginning in 1862, a second standard full mark was used. The main difference from the earlier mark as that the “CC” mark was now put inside of a square box called the “poincon de responsabilite.” Instead of a bee, there is now an image of a rosette (flower). Another new element was the designation of the silver content in square-shaped boxes rather than the former lozenge-shaped boxes.

In 1935, Christofle introduced the third standard full mark. Instead of using the initials “CC,” it now contained the initials “OC.” The OC refers to “Orfevrerie Christofle” or Silversmith Christofle. The “OC” marking is enclosed in a lined regular box.

Silver Marking

Antique Silver Dealers Can Evaluate Your Piece

If you have a Christofle piece and need to know its value, Florida silver buyers are a great resource to determine what exactly you have. At Antique Silver Buyers, we can evaluate your silver item or collection to determine its authenticity and whether it is sterling or plated. With a wealth of knowledge about silver plated hallmarks, we’ll give you an idea about how much your collection would sell for at auction. If you are in the market to sell your piece, this information will be valuable when you decided on a price.

Is Your Antique Silver Solid or Plated?

You have a prized silver antique collection, but do you know if it is solid silver of simply silver plated? Does it really make a difference? It does if you are concerned with the value.

Silver plating was developed as an inexpensive way for people who couldn’t afford sterling (or solid silver) to enjoy the beauty of the metal without the hefty price tag. In fact, some manufacturers got so good at creating silver plated items that it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between the two. Unfortunately, when it comes to the value of your antiques, whether you have solid or plated silver makes a big difference, so it is important to be able to differentiate between the two.

Look for a Stamp

If your antique silver technique is truly sterling silver and not simply plated, it will be stamped with a telltale hallmark. Typically found on the bottom of the piece, a silver stamp may include:

  • The words “Sterling Silver’
  • A numeric value (800, 900, 925, etc.)
  • A lion hallmark

Lion hallmark

If you notice a stamp on your antique silver, use a magnifying glass to inspect it closely. International sellers commonly use the numeric values, as they will indicate the percentage of fine silver that is found in the piece. For example, a piece stamped with 925 will indicate that the item is 92.5% silver.

If your antique silver doesn’t have a stamp, you should be leery about its silver content. It may have simply been produced in a country that doesn’t stamp its solid silver products, but you should follow up with an additional test.

Perform the Magnet Test

A strong magnet can be a good tool in determining whether your silver antique is solid silver or plated. Silver exhibits weak magnetic effects, so if you hold a magnet up and it sticks to the piece strongly, you can feel pretty confident that the piece isn’t silver. Similarly, if the magnet doesn’t stick, you shouldn’t automatically assume that you’ve got the real deal. There are plenty of materials that resemble silver and are not magnetic.

Use Some Ice

Another great way to test whether or not you own a solid silver piece can be performed with something that is probably already in your freezer – ice cubes. Silver is an excellent conductor, meaning it relays heat and cold quickly. Put some ice on or inside of your silver item, depending on what it is, and wait to see if it gets cold. Sterling silver items should be cold in less than a minute. This is an especially helpful method when you have two items that you can compare, such as a sterling silver spoon and a spoon from a silver plated set.

Get Your Piece Evaluated

If you still aren’t sure about whether or not your antique is solid silver or silver plated, there are a variety of great professionals out there that can give you some insight. An antique dealer, auctioneer, appraiser, or estate sale company should be able to examine your item and tell you about its silver composition.

Markings on Silver

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Owning a piece of silver is like owning a piece of history, finding markings on silver can sometimes be quiet difficult. Each unique piece is stamped, or hallmarked, with defining markings from the maker and the era it was verified in. If your silver piece has no markings, you probably do not have a legitimate piece. It is important to learn how to identify markings on silver in order to properly date and valuate each piece.

Identifying Markings on Silver Pieces

To identify markings, you should be able to locate them in key places. You may need to clean up the piece first though. Due to alchemical properties of silver and the base metals, usually copper, needed to strengthen the soft metal, silver is highly susceptible to tarnish. If your silver piece is covered in a soot like or blackened layer, gently take a clean dry cotton cloth to rub away the aged varnish using a specialized cream made for silver. Take care to begin in one area and in a circular motion methodically clean the silver. You do not need water or any harsh chemical. These can damage your historical relic.

As you clean away the tarnish keep an eye out for any markings that appear to be stamped into the metal. These marks are applied using a hammer and punch usually just before the final polishing. This is because when they are stamped, there are rough edges that need to get filed down with the rest of the piece. There are usually more than one marking and will be key to identifying the integrity, origin and value of your silver piece. These defining hallmarks are what an expert will need to accurately date the piece and can be found, but not limited to, these common places:

Stamp on silver tea sets

1. On the underside of a vase, tea set, or any novelty object that rests on a flat surface.
2. On the underside of the handle of flatware where there is enough surface area, generally at the end of the stem.
3. On the back side of pieces that stand upright or hang such as picture frames.

Stamps are applied in the places that do not detract from aesthetic quality and where there is enough room to punch them without puncturing thin silver or damaging any edges. They also may not all be in a neat row, but placed in different places along the piece.

Identifying Fraudulent Markings

Unfortunately, over the years there have been individuals who try to reproduce valuable markings in an effort to sell counterfeit articles. These fraudulent markings can easily be identified by knowledgeable professionals who understand the complicated and authoritative laws that have regulated markings on silver for centuries. The most commonly forged markings on silver are the ones that bring the most value such as Tiffany and Unger Bros.

Tiffany silver stamp

The easiest way to identify a counterfeit markings on silver is with a side by side comparison of original markings either from an authentic piece or picture from a credible reference. For a collector, the learning process never ends. There are over 12,000 documented silver marks and that list continues to grow as research is part of the enjoyment and reward. Over time, a knowledgeable collector or dealer will become familiar with the nuances of identifying markings and have experience distinguishing their validity and the unique story each silver piece has to tell.

If you have found markings on your silver object, let a collector take a look and give you the needed information to determine its value.

*Please consider when contacting us that we only purchase in the state of Florida: Sarasota, Bradenton, Venice, Tampa, St Pete, Orlando, Port Charlotte. Naples to name a few. Please look at our list on bottom of the home page. We do not purchase or appraise out of state.

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Repousse Sterling Silver

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Have you ever wondered how some antique silver pieces can contain such detailed and extravagant designs? It is through a metal working process known as Repousse /rəˌpo͞oˈsā/. It is a French word that means “pushed back” and it relates to the labor intensive way the metal must be carefully manipulated by a skilled silversmith. It is a combination of skilled technique that dates back for thousands of years, but some of the top master metalsmiths have left a Repousse legacy.

Baltimore Repousse

In fact, repousse is such a large and distinctive aspect of antique sterling silver in American history that it is commonly referred to as Baltimore Repousse. Baltimore, MD became known as a hotbed of aspiring and highly skilled silversmiths that manufacturing firms settled down there. As more and more of the repousse sterling silver patterns emerged from these talented firms, some of the most well-known makers today got their start in Baltimore during the mid-19th century emergence of this praised metal working technique.

Baltimore Repousse silver items

Baltimore repousse was an expensive luxury reserved for the rapidly emerging wealthy class. It replaced most of the colonial style 925 silver on the tables of debutante balls and dinner parties, also French traditions. Most repousse sterling silver pieces were hand hammered, embossed and even gently pressed from the reverse side, but some, like flatware, were made using a press mold. However, the antique silver markings would be stamped onto each valuable piece. Identifying those markings today can help an antique silver dealer valuate your piece.

The Who’s Who in Repousse Silver

Some of the most valuable pieces today bear the markings of names like:
Tiffany & Co
Jenkins and Jenkins
Schofield Company
Stieff Silver Company
And Samuel Kirk, the silversmith who is credited the most with bringing repousse sterling silver to Baltimore.

Stieff and Kirk later merged while some of the silver manufacturing firms were handed down to sons and merged with other partners in the 20th century. The Baltimore firms are no longer operational today. Steiff and Kirk were eventually bought up by the famous Walter Scott Lenox of which we know as the American company today; Lenox.

jenkins and jenkins silver stamp

Tiffany Repousse silver is some of the most valuable on the market today. A single spoon can bring hundreds of dollars. Stieff Repousse sterling silver is also highly sought after by collectors. If you have a piece of silver, or a set, hollowware or flatware, it is important to know what you have. Just because it may have an intricate design doesn’t mean it is worth top dollar. Even some of the famous names in silver made silver plated pieces.

Taking your pieces to a professional will allow you to have your crafted piece of history evaluated and assessed. Antique silver buyers will be able to tell you, based on the markings, who made your piece of repousse sterling silver, when it was made, if it is sterling silver or silver plated as well as the town it was assayed in. All of these factors play a vital role in determining the value to you and the value to collectors should you decide to have your piece formally appraised for estate purposes or to sell at auction.

*Please consider when contacting us that we only purchase in the state of Florida: Sarasota, Bradenton, Venice, Tampa, St Pete, Orlando, Port Charlotte. Naples to name a few. Please look at our list on bottom of the home page. We do not purchase or appraise out of state.

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History Behind Silver Markings

Silver Markings

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Silver has been mined from the earth for thousands of years. Old World silver and silver markings have been traced back to modern day Turkey, as early as 4000 BC. But it wasn’t until around 2500 BC that we have solid accounts of the first sophisticated mining and refinement process of the precious metal known as “cupellation.” Since that time, civilizations have risen and fallen, each leaving their own characteristic imprint on silver before it became a valued currency in America. Due to the wide variability in purity, integrity and origin silver markings were developed to distinguish and verify each piece.

The Importance of Markings

Silver Markings

One of the most imperative distinguishments to make is whether the piece is sterling silver or if the piece is merely sprayed with a layer of silver atop another, less valuable, base metal, known as plating. Once you have determined if the piece is sterling or plated silver, other markings denote such valuable information such as:

–  Makers Mark; this is usually denoted by the silversmiths initials of the first and last name
–  Firm Name; often added along with the Makers Mark
–  Date; usually just the year the piece was crafted
–  Assay; this mark proves the piece was inspected and verified. It may also contain an additional standard symbol to denote purity. Silver is a soft metal and even sterling has a small percentage of another metal to give it strength.

Silver markings not only help collectors to identify key characteristics of the piece for valuation, they divulge a rich history, and to a collector, that is of great worth.

Silver Markings across Civilizations

Identifying the markings on a piece of silver is quite the task as there are hundreds of different symbols. Each civilization has created their own stamp and that stamp has evolved as different authorities have altered the design for various purposes such as taxes or even pride. Tracing them can be difficult for many reasons. Sometimes the pieces are well worn and the stamp has become hard to distinguish to an untrained eye. There are often minute details separating an assay’s mark, such as a small number or letter that helps to determine the value based on purity. Even if the markings can be clearly established, some of the registration records have been destroyed, making complete identification almost impossible to achieve in some cases.

No matter what type of piece; coin, flatware, tea sets or candelabra, there will be markings on it. If there are no markings, the piece is not valuable and could be fraudulent.

Each nation still has an abundance of well-documented markings to make identification possible, even if some of the markings have faded away with time. If you have a silver piece you would like to know more about, contact a knowledgeable professional who is familiar with the different eras and aspects of markings. The markings are what determine the value of your piece so it is important to have it identified correctly, whether you want to have it appraised for insurance purposes or if you are looking to sell the piece.

*Please consider when contacting us that we only purchase in the state of Florida: Sarasota, Bradenton, Venice, Tampa, St Pete, Orlando, Port Charlotte. Naples to name a few. Please look at our list on bottom of the home page. We do not purchase or appraise out of state.

Thank You