A Quick Guide to Valuing Antique Silverware

January 23, 2020 - Antiques, Art and Collectibles

Margaret Hobbs found a box of silver objects under her bed and took them to a TV valuation show.

The items had been put there by her late husband and she took them to the Antiques Roadshow where she was surprised to learn that they could be valuable. Several of the items then went on sale at Christie’s in London and made 78,717 pounds!

Have you got some items hidden under your bed? Do you want to know if those old bits and pieces you have lying around could be converted into hard cash? Read on to find out how valuable your antique silverware really is.

Antique Silverware Value

Silverware is a term used to describe knives, forks, and spoons otherwise known as cutlery. It’s often called silverware because it is made of silver, coated with silver or even looks like silver. Valuable antique silverware is either made of or coated with real silver.

Silver is a valuable metal and has a value as scrap. Sometimes the intrinsic value of the silver outstrips the value of the article itself. More modern pieces may not have retained their value but quality antiques will hopefully have more value than their scrap metal price.

Clean your silverware

Making a valuation starts with understanding what the piece of silverware you have really is. To do this you need to clean it so you can read any markings and see the pattern. Cleaning and polishing silverware should be done with caution if you are not to damage the item and reduce its value.

Wipe the article with white spirit to remove dirt and some tarnish. A silver cloth can be used but go gently. Use a cloth swab with white spirit to rub the item and if necessary use a mild abrasive cream.

Avoid using silver dips or even silver polishes as these use chemicals that can damage the surface. The important thing is to progress carefully and gently.

Sterling Silver or Silverplate

Valuable Antique Silverware comes in two types. Silver plate and Sterling silver. These are quite easy to identify.

Silverplated silverware is made of a base metal that is then coated with silver. This silver coating gives it a beautiful appearance but costs much less than Sterling silver. Silverplate feels lighter in weight for the size than Sterling silver.

Sterling silver is easily identifiable by the word “Stirling” stamped on the item. This means that it is pure silver or .924 silver with the addition of .075 copper. All Sterling silver made in the United States post-1850 has “Sterling” or “.925” or “925/1000” stamped on it.

If you suspect the item is very old it may not have a mark. You can’t know if it is made of Sterling silver without a chemical test by a professional.

Is It Valuable?

Silverplate may have a modest resale value if the design and quality are excellent. Its value comes only from the aesthetics of the piece. It will not have enough silver in it to be worth anything for the silver alone.

Sterling silver is more valuable because the silver content has a scrap value. In addition, the age, design, and attractiveness of the silverware may mean its value far exceeds the scrap value.

Hallmarks, Manufacturer, and Pattern

After cleaning examine the silverware for hallmarks and stamps. Use an online guide to check the hallmark to identify the manufacturer and pattern. With this information, you can start to identify the value of the item.

Put the details into a Google search to find similar items for sale. Alternatively, search a replacement site for your item. There are also published price guides available to buy.

Final Word

There is no substitute for a professional appraisal. Have items you suspect are antique silverware, checked out.

Don’t confuse a valuation with an offer to buy. If a dealer is giving you a price they are negotiating so be skeptical.

To learn about items you can easily sell or pawn for cash, click here.

David Stiebel

David Stiebel is one of the cofounders of PawnGuru. David was educated at MIT, where he studied Math. He subsequently worked at Bain as a data scientist before starting PawnGuru in 2015. He started PawnGuru to build a better tool for pawn shops and consumers to connect.

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