Until 1965, coins minted in the United States contained 90% silver. Between 1965 and 1969, it dropped to 40%. Nowadays, silver is much too valuable to have such a high concentration in coins. In fact, antique silver is a vast business market. Beautiful silverware like trays, bowls, and tea sets are more of a responsibility nowadays and have become a luxury item.
If you own silver items, you might be wondering what they’re worth. In truth, it's best to get educated about the piece you own, and in this article, we aim to help with that. Read on to find out more about the value of silverware and how to sell it.
Is Silver Good for Investment?
Antique silver cutlery can be an excellent investment if the buyer understands the principles of silver and measures the silver value properly.
Most collectors dont look at buying and selling an antique silver tea set or cutlery as an investment, as sometimes the silver used in the piece is more valuable than the actual price of the cutlery or tea sets. However, sometimes the worth of the antique silver cutlery is worth more when sold as a whole.
Evaluating the Worth of Antique Silver
When finding the worth of the silverware, there are some things you need to account for.
Generally, silver pieces should have several characteristics.
The object being in its original condition without modifications
Still, minor wear and tear is acceptable.
The most desirable objects are those in the best condition, which makes the object's state extremely important. If you repair an object, then its value decreases significantly. Similarly, objects personalized by engravings are worth a lot less, especially if the engraving is of a low quality.
Restoration is slightly different as fixing up a valuable object will only add to its worth. A rare item in poor condition can have a great value if restored to its original condition properly.
Style and Design
Proficiency in design and quality of the execution is vital when evaluating the worth of an item. We should know how the item was manufactured to hold it in high regard, giving it a higher value.
Let's take an antique silver tea set, for example. Manufacturers used an ingot of silver to create an irregular sheet of silver. It is then heated and hammered again to work into the design of the teapot. They repeat this over and over until they get the perfect shape of the teapot.
They can emboss the teapot, which is done similarly by hammering. After that, different parts are welded using several silver alloys. The process is repeated for the other parts of the tea set to create a whole.
This process takes a considerable amount of effort and time. More effort means better quality, and better quality means more worth. You can’t compare an antique set to the sets machine made in factories.
The object's size isn't everything when considering the value. It's the detail that matters. A small saltbox can have a very high value if meticulous details. Similarly, a heavier object will have less worth if its design isn't detailed or interesting.
Rarity and Age
Some items are prevalent and easily found, making them less desirable to collectors. So, their value is lesser compared to rare, highly sought-after items.
Similarly, the object's age, alongside its condition as discussed before, plays a massive part in evaluating an object. Generally speaking, the older the object and the rarer, the higher its value.
The silversmith who created the object is very important when determining the piece's value. Some renowned silversmiths are known for their meticulous crafting skills, which is why their work is sought after by collectors, as their work is a sign of high quality.
This can also add to the rarity of the piece. A specific piece made by a particular silversmith can have an extremely high value.
Provenance is legal, documented proof of the ownership of an item. This can help increase the worth of a piece drastically. For example, Thomas Germain, the goldsmith to King Louis XV, made an exquisite tureen out of silver for him in 1733. Auctioneers sold this for eight million euros in 1996.
The weight of the silver is significant when evaluating the object. Its weight can be a reliable indicator of the worth of the silver used in making the object. The government even melted larger silver objects down during the war to make coins.
Many articles have also disappeared over time. It’s unfortunate for society, but it may be just the ticket for an owner of a rare piece.
Currently, people still melt silverware down for money, but usually, an antique object is worth much more than the price of the silver. This causes the overall value of the piece to increase drastically.
Throughout history, silver has served in the same capacity as money. Silver is ideal for manufacturing coins since it is relatively expensive, can be very robust when mixed with a metal like copper, and can be manufactured in huge quantities with a consistent weight and size.
The purity needed to be regulated and standardized. Therefore, they created hallmarks to ensure the purity and authenticity of the piece and to recognize the silversmith. With time, hallmarking methods progressed, and each country now has its unique set of silver hallmarks.
These markings, or sections, are employed as a guarantee of silver purity, a city symbol that identifies the institution's position overseeing silver evaluation as the hallmark of a specific silversmith.
An object's hallmarks can also help antique experts to identify it. However, be wary of counterfeit hallmarks. They may even make a new piece appear aged!
These are not the same markings popular in the 19th century and the start of the 20th century. Antique silver items were popular during this time, but there weren't sufficient supplies to meet demand. As a result, Germany produced many silver pieces in the ancient style, with markings that seemed accurate but slightly different.
For example, as Hanau silver is highly prized, you need to be wary of counterfeit markings. There are likely many more counterfeit pieces than real items floating about these days.
Silver-plated items can also have hallmarks that resemble silver hallmarks, as well as silver objects without marks. This style is very common with religious or Indian silver.
What Do Silver Hallmarks Mean?
Hallmarks are crucial for telling the differences between silver-plated cutlery and sterling silver. You can find different types of markings across other silver products, and it's in your best interest to know about them. There are some of the most commonly used hallmarks:
Standard mark - The lion passant for sterling silver was certified in London, Glasgow, and Edinburgh in the 14th century. They used the thistle mark to certify sterling silver before 1975, while the crowned harp mark identifies Irish sterling silver.
Date letter - They used a letter on sterling silver artifacts from 1697 to 1999 to indicate the year they were created. To the untrained eye, these letters seem meaningless, yet they may indicate a link to date ranges in government sterling silver records.
Maker’s mark - The marker's mark on actual silverware is comprised of the name of a specific silversmith. These are distinguished by distinctive typefaces and patterns. Some websites can assist you in determining whether these markings are genuine.
Commemorative marks - Silver makers commemorate certain milestones with a unique commemorative hallmark, such as King George V's Silver Jubilee or the Millennium Mark.
If you're unsure of a mark on your piece, the internet is your best friend. You can also visit a reputable local sterling silver dealer to check the authenticity of the mark and what it means.
Click here to learn more about common silver hallmarks and markings.
Ways to Verify Authenticity
The best method is to head to a professional. Still, here are a few ways to verify whether the silver you have is the real thing.
1. Authentication Marks
Real silver carries hallmarks or prints of authenticity, which signify its purity. Check your piece for these markings. If you're unable to find these, there's a huge chance that your piece isn't real silver.
Some manufacturers also include vital information like the location and the date of manufacture. Most also have a purity evaluation marking like 800, 900, and 925. These values tell about how pure the silver is in the piece.
Pure silver has the highest thermal conductivity out of any metal or alloy. To check whether your silver is real, place an ice cube on it. If the silver is authentic, you should see the ice melt very quickly.
This is because the silver is at room temperature and contact with ice means that the heat from the silver is transferred to the ice. Due to the high thermal conductivity of silver, this process happens very quickly, melting the ice rapidly.
Real silver is odorless, simple as that. However, when mixed with other metals, the smell it exudes can change. Real silver is soft and slightly bendable, so it must be compounded with other metals to make alloys.
The smells can also change depending on the concentration of other metals. If there's no smell, then the silver piece is close to being authentic, but if there's a strong smell, then it means you may be dealing with an ungenuine article.
4. Magnetic Charge
Silver, like all other precious metals, does not react to magnets. Hold a magnet up to it to check if a silver item you have is genuine. If it attracts, likely, you're not dealing with the real thing.
Some jewelry has bars and clasps made out of something more affordable, which may attract a magnet. When talking about cutlery, the sharp ends of forks and knives are almost always a different metal. Silver is only for the handles.
To keep the shine of antique silverware, it's important to polish it often as metals are susceptible to tarnish and oxidation on an older piece. Use a piece of a soft light-colored cloth and rub the silver item with it.
There should be a black residue on the cloth, and you should see the article start to clean up. If nothing comes off, then your silver item probably isn't pure.
How Much Is My Antique Piece Worth?
Silver prices are often calculated according to the item's weight, and prices can vary depending on the type of silver you own. However, the complexity of the design of your silverware, its rarity, and the purity of the silver in it are huge deciding factors.
A good way to gauge the price of silverware is to see other pieces with the same hallmarks and how much they sell for. Some of these factors are hard to account for when looking at antique silver jewelry. So, you may have to have a pro look at your rings, necklaces, bracelets, and earrings.
If you'd like an instant online offer, you can get one on our site.
Get an Offer on Your Valuables
We hope this article was helpful to you in helping you learn more about the worth of your antique silver items and determining their authenticity. If you’re still having trouble estimating the value on your own, maybe it’s time to bring it to a professional.
Although it’s pretty tricky to tell the price of an exact piece of antique silver, we offer an online service to make you an offer. Just fill in the form, and we’ll get back to you with a quote or ask for more information.
We don’t just work with antique silver either. We can make you offers on newer items. We also accept gold and platinum products, so don’t be afraid to get in contact with us and see what we can do for you.