What is sterling silver?
Sterling silver is a silver alloy that consists of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% of other metals – usually copper. The numbers “925” or “.925” marked on silver jewelry is an indication that the piece is made of sterling silver. Pure silver is too soft to be shaped into everyday items, so the sterling silver alloy was developed to create silver items that are able to retain their shape.
Is my silver piece sterling or silver plate?
Historically, silver plating was used as an affordable alternative for people that could not afford sterling silver pieces. In many cases, these pieces are hard to differentiate from sterling silver, but one of the easiest ways to tell the difference is the presence of a hallmark. Sterling silver pieces will be adorned with a numeric hallmark (925 or .925), the actual words “Sterling Silver”, or a lion hallmark.
Without a stamp, there are other ways to tell if your item is sterling or simply silver plated. A strong magnet can be a great tool, as silver has weak magnetic effects. If a magnet sticks to your item strongly, you should feel confident that it is only silver plated and contains more of another metal.
What is the difference between sterling silver and pure silver?
As previously noted, sterling silver is an alloy consisting of 92.5% silver, while the remaining 7.5% of its composition is made of copper and other metals. On the other hand, pure silver has an actual silver content of 99.9%. Due to this high purity, fine silver is usually too soft for use in making jewelry and other antiques, which is why it is mixed with other metals.
If you think you may have a pure – or fine – silver antique, you can look for its distinctive markings. Fine silver is usually stamped with marks like “.999,” “999,” or “99.9.”
Do silver plated items have any value?
Silver plated antiques are certainly not worth as much as sterling or other alloys with high silver content. However, your silver plated items may still hold value and could be worth some money. The value of silver plated flatware, for example, has a lot to do with what base metal is found underneath the silver. If copper is the underlying metal, the value of the flatware could be worth the price of copper scrap.
Silver plated Holloware may have more value, as it is often considered in a class of its own. Holloware includes plates, serving dishes, bowls, trays, teapots, and other non-cutlery pieces. Silver plated Holloware often has value because it isn’t as common as flatware, and historically, it had a higher price tag. Silver plated tea sets can have a price tag of well over $100 due to their rarity and age.
How can I minimize tarnish on my sterling silver?
Over time, sterling silver jewelry or antiques that are exposed to air will begin to tarnish. That’s because the other metals used to create a silver alloy, particularly copper, react to sulfur and moisture in the air, causing the metal to tarnish. Areas of high air pollution and humidity will lead to faster tarnishing, and certain chemicals can speed up the process.
If you want to prevent your silver from tarnishing, follow a few simple steps:
- Store your clean, dry sterling silver in airtight containers, such as Tupperware or a Ziploc bag, depending on the size.
- Anti-tarnish strips within the airtight bag or container can help to absorb elements that cause tarnish.
- Never leave sterling silver antiques or jewelry in high-moisture areas unprotected. This includes leaving sterling silver jewelry in the bathroom or wearing it in the swimming pool or shower.
- Minimize sterling silver’s contact to chemicals found in body lotion, perfume, hairspray, and makeup.
- Clean your sterling silver regularly with a soft, dry polishing cloth, especially before you store it.
An antique dealer or jeweler can help you to clean your silver pieces if they have already started to tarnish.
How should I care for my silver antiques?
Taking proper care of your silver antiques can prevent tarnish, which could affect the overall value of your pieces. Fortunately, to keep silver candlesticks, trays, bowls, and other pieces gleaming, you really only need to give them a brief buffing about once a week. You can do this with a polish cloth or special silver mitts along with a little silver cleaner.
To polish your silver, use a well-known and safe silver polish like Twinkle Silver Polish, Wright’s Silver Polish, or Goddard’s Long Shine Silver Polish. These products are proven to be gentle, while other options might be abrasive and can scratch your pieces. Be sure to wash your silver before applying it, and then follow the directions as stated on the polish container. Ensure that your pieces are dried thoroughly before storage to prevent tarnish.
What does the hallmark on my silver antique tell me?
In most countries, silver objects are stamped with at least one silver hallmark, which can tell you a lot about your piece. A silver hallmark may indicate:
- Purity of the silver
- Date of manufacture
- Who manufactured the piece
- Information about the price
Hallmarks are typically applied using a hammer and a punch, and in some countries, marking is controlled by a national office.
What is English sterling?
English sterling silver is one of the few antique items that come with virtually a guarantee of its age and manufacturer due to hallmarking requirements. Dating back to 1478, London silversmiths have been required to date mark any of their pieces.
English sterling silver has its own unique hallmarking system, and to novices, they may seem like a random collection of figures and letters in impressed boxes known as cartouches. Every English sterling item will be hallmarked with a lion (standing on three legs with its front, right paw raised), a city mark, a date mark, and a maker’s mark. Some pieces also include a duty mark, such as Queen Victoria’s or King George’s head, according to the year that the piece was manufactured.
Are my silver antiques worth anything?
In order to find if your silver antiques are worth anything (other than the scrap price of silver), it is important to know what type of silver you have. Examine the piece for hallmarks and back stamps. If the silver is marked “sterling” or has a number value greater than 925 stamped on it, you could have a valuable piece on your hands.
In addition to the type of silver, the manufacturer and pattern will play important roles in determining the value of your silver piece. You can check out online resources like Replacements.com to find the retail price of your silver item, and these online resources will give you an idea of both the value and age of your silver. If you aren’t sure on the manufacturer, look for the hallmark, and use online resources to help you match the hallmark to the maker.
If you still aren’t sure on the type of silver antique you have, an antique dealer, estate agent, or broker can help. In Florida there are many experienced antique buyers that can help you grab the best price for your valuables.
How can I sell my antique silver?
There are many options available if you are ready to sell your silver antiques:
- Online auctions. Websites like eBay and LiveAuctioneers are a good way to sell antique silver valuables, although they are best suited for items of a lower value.
- Private sales. Whether you choose to sell your items outright or host an estate sale, a private sale is another way to sell your antique silver pieces.
- Auction houses. Often a better option for valuable antiques than online auctions, an auction house is a good way to get maximum value for your antique silver items.
- Antique dealer. An antique dealer will have experience with your silver antiques, and they can provide you with a fair estimate as to how much they are worth.
If you are ready to sell your silver antiques, contact us at Antique Silver Buyers today. We will provide a value analysis for your items and will place a fair bid on your collectibles, leaving you with money in your pocket.