In the U.S., sterling silver flatware was prevalent during the 19th and early 20th centuries. If you’ve received antique flatware as a family heirloom or stumbled upon silver flatware at an estate sale, you’re probably wondering how much it’s worth. While we always recommend hiring a professional appraiser for the most accurate information on an item’s value, there are some basic contextual facts you can gather to determine if the antique flatware has any current value.
Here are five tips to help you identify valuable flatware.
Determine If the Pieces are Sterling or Silver-plated
First, make sure the pieces are in fact sterling silver and not just silver-plated. Authentic sterling silver is made up of 92.5% silver and is always marked as such. Inspect the pieces looking for markings such as “925,” “.925” or “sterling” for pieces made in the U.S. These pieces are usually darker in color and are naturally lighter in weight. Sterling silver pieces have intrinsic value, and can often be resold. Although we’ve all heard the offers on the radio for pawn shops requesting gold and silver, it’s important to work with a qualified appraisal expert, to ensure you get the proper value for your silver.
If an item is silver-plated, that means it has a base metal of another material and has been coated with a thin layer of silver. These pieces are usually lighter in color and heavier in weight because of the base metals. Because these pieces contain very little pure silver, they have far lesser value.
Determine If You Have a Set or Odds and Ends
A full set of antique flatware may have more value than a collection of odd pieces that don’t go together. Inspect your pieces to determine if they have the same marks or engravings. Also, note how many place settings you have in your collection.
If you find your pieces do not have any similar markings, you likely have some odd pieces that have accumulated over the years and aren’t a cohesive set.
Observe the Flatware Pattern
The pattern engraved into your flatware pieces may also help determine how much they are worth, as some patterns are rarer and may have a higher value. Pieces that have a family monogram or are marked with initials have a lower value, as it is harder to find a collector. A professional appraisal can help you determine if the pattern engraved on your pieces indicates a higher value.
Consider the Overall Condition
Last but certainly not least, take into account the overall condition of the sterling silver flatware pieces. If the items have been well cared for and have maintained their shape, they will likely have a higher value than those that have not been taken care of and cannot be restored. Some common issues seen with silver are a loss of polish and corrosion pitting, which causes small holes in the metal as it deteriorates over time.
If you would like help assessing your silver flatware, you can hire a professional appraiser for a fee. The appraisal experts at Fruitcocktail will help you assess the condition of all silver pieces and provide recommendations on restoration if that’s a logical option.