Silver is a precious metal used for making various items for centuries. In the past, only members of the royal family and nobility could enjoy silverware or wear elegant knight’s armors made of this metal. Everything changed after opening silver mines in the US when silver prices decreased, and silver flatware became affordable for the middle class.
Nowadays, you can find antique dinner sets, decorative spoons, and knives made of silver without spending too much money. In fact, you can find beautiful and unique pieces for a couple of dozen dollars since antique silverware value is pretty affordable on the current market.
Antique Silverware Value
Silverware is cutlery made of silver, but you can also find sets coated with this precious metal. For over a century, silverware was the hallmark of upper-middle-class success. It was highly prevalent in the US in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Antique silverware value
|Silverware||No of pieces||Price|
|Buccellati Grande Imperiale Italian sterling silver set||168 pieces with 12 place setting||$61,750|
|English George V sterling silver canteen of cutlery (1932)||12 place setting||25,603|
|Birks Queens pattern sterling silver flatware||220 pieces with 12 place setting||$9,000|
|Gorham serving sterling silver flatware set||132 pieces||$6,950|
|Mauser Silverware American Beauty in original box (1896)||6 place setting||$6,630|
|Georg Jensen Acanthus sterling silver set||81 pieces with 12 place setting||$5,525|
|Dominick & Haff sterling set (1880)||96 with 12 place setting||$4,500|
|Wallace Romance of the Sea sterling silver||76 with 12 place setting||$4,300|
|Georg Jensen Acanthus sterling silver flatware||65 with 8 place setting||$4,000|
|Sterling silver Peru Camusso set with a box||110 pieces||$3,950|
|Lunt Eloquence sterling silver flatware||62 pieces with 12 place setting||$3,400|
|Wallace Grande baroque sterling flatware||72 pieces||$3,000|
|Rhapsody Flatware Sterling Silver Set||114 pieces with 12 place setting||$2,975|
|Princess Elizabeth flatware made of sterling silver||56 pieces||$2,200|
|Gorham sterling silver flatware||6 place setting||$1,800|
|Wallace sterling silver flatware (1941)||48 pieces||$1,750|
|Puiforcat .800/1000 French silver set in a box||Dessert set||$1,645|
Nowadays, you can rarely see families use this flatware type, but collectors often pay money for rare antique sets. The set’s price depends on the number of the place setting, how many pieces it contains, and the original canteen.
Ways to Value Antique Silverware
Sets vs. individual pieces
A basic silver cutlery service sometimes contains a dessert spoon, table fork, and table knife, but it can also come with 6, 12, or 24 place settings and a few hundred pieces. In most cases, collectors prefer sets consisting of several various parts.
A complete antique flatware set is more pricey than a collection of individual pieces that don’t fit together. Items with different patterns and markings are not a cohesive set, and you can sometimes sell separate items quicker than the whole group.
On the other hand, some individual items can be collectible, particularly when they are beautiful, unusual, and rare on the market. For instance, collectors will appreciate rare or very old silverware, like:
- Cocktail forks
- Decorative, demitasse, and souvenir spoons
- Carving knives and forks
- Items decorated with yellow or rose gold details
There is one more thing! Although no one looks for items like fish forks and knives, they will be desirable as service parts. Be aware that such unwanted pieces can add significant value to the service, particularly when they come with silver tines and blades.
Age and rarity
An antique silverware age is one of the most determining factors affecting its value. Typically, the oldest pieces are the most costly, but it also depends on their rarity. Even though some items are antique, they will be less collectible if you can quickly find them on the market.
The rule of thumb is that silverware in a pristine overall condition is worth more than the set with visible traces of use. Collectors seek after undamaged and unrepaired services in original condition. The only exception is rare pieces after restoration, which increases their value.
Typical issues these silver pieces get over time include a loss of patina and shine. Another problem is forks, and they are the first thing to check. The most valuable are pieces with even and leveled tines. Unfortunately, returning once distorted tines to their original form is almost impossible.
The silverware’s price significantly depends on engraved patterns, and some rare types can cost a small fortune. The standard patterns include:
- Kings pattern
- Queens pattern
- Hanoverian pattern
- Old English pattern
- Fiddle pattern
- Fiddle and thread pattern
- Shell pattern
In most cases, collectors don’t want to see engraved initials, making these pieces less desirable and cheaper. Even elements with a removed monogram will be less valuable. Things are more complicated when it comes to the family coat of arms.
Finding a collector who appreciates seeing other families’ emblems on their silverware can be challenging. However, high-quality engraved family arms can be exciting and of better value, particularly when the family is famous.
The least expensive silverware is obviously damaged pieces and those with lost details due to polishing.
Craftsmanship and design
The silverware’s execution quality (craftsmanship) significantly affects its value. When a silversmith invested effort and time to create stylish silver flatware with a complicated pattern, you can expect it to be pricey. Pieces with uninteresting design and low quality will be inexpensive despite their age.
It is a document that proves silverware or any other item made of silver is original. Plus, it unequivocally confirms your ownership, increasing its value.
This proof of ownership is crucial for achieving a high auction price. For instance, one collector paid 8 million euros ($8,500,000) in 1996 for an impressive silver tureen made for Louis XV in 1733.
The silversmith and manufacturer’s reputation
As expected, silverware designed by a reputable silversmith renowned for high-quality pieces will be expensive. It is the same with companies creating quality silverware for higher classes.
|Only Alvin or with a dragon below||Alvin Silver|
|SB Sterling or Saart Sterling||Saart Brothers|
|Bear and images anchor, plus a G & sign||Gorham Silver|
|Tiffany & Company Makers||Tiffany & Co.|
|Lunt Sterling||Lunt Silver|
|R.W. & S.||R. Wallace Silver|
|The manufacturer’s name Durgin||Durgin Silver|
|The manufacturer’s name Dansk||Dansk Silver|
|The manufacturer’s name Reed & Barton||Reed & Barton|
|The manufacturer’s name or I. S. Co. Sterling||International Silver|
|The manufacturer’s name inside a circle||Fine Arts Silver|
|The manufacturer’s name Kirk & Smith||Kirk and Smith|
|Rosenthal Sterling or only Rosenthal||Rosenthal Silver|
|Heirloom Sterling or Oneida Sterling||Oneida Silver|
The quickest way to determine whether you have flatware made of silver is to find a hallmark that contains details about the manufacturer, silver purity, and production date.
For instance, you will typically find standard hallmarks with detailed information if you look for British silverware designed after 1700:
- Lion, as the mark referring to sterling silver
- Town (assay) mark, showing representing the town where silverware was produced
- Leopard, as a sign of flatware created in London
- Date letters from A to Z determine the manufacturing date
- Maker’s (sponsor) mark is a silversmith maker mark and is typically represented by the maker’s initials
The crucial thing is to recognize the difference between silverware and silver-plated flatware. The quickest way to correctly check it is to find a hallmark.
Silverware vs. silver-plate
|Sterling or 925 mark||Silver-plate mark|
|Deep color with luster||Light color without luster|
|Lasts for centuries||Lasts approximately two decades|
|It has melted value||It has no melted value|
In the US, silverware made of pure sterling silver contains at least 925 parts silver in 1,000 material parts. This 925/1000 sterling standard appeared in the US in the mid-1860s. All pieces manufactured before 1940 also contained the manufacturer’s name.
Unlike the .925 mark implying you have silverware made of 92.5% pure sterling silver, you can also find pieces with other standard markings, including:
- .800 for pieces made of 80% pure silver
- .500 for pieces made of 50% pure silver
In most cases, you can find a mark on the silverware’s bottom. Remember that it can be hardly visible on an antique piece due to tarnishing and wear over the years.
It is possible to find silverware created in the US without sterling silver or with a lower-grade alloy content. It is crucial to discover discreet markings indicating how much pure silver (in ounces) was used in the plating, like:
- A1 – It indicates that a manufacturer used 2 ounces (57 g) of silver per a teaspoon
- AA – It indicates that a manufacturer used 3 ounces (85 g) of silver per a teaspoon
On the other hand, silver-plated flatware doesn’t contain silver and comes with recognizable markings.
Silver-plated flatware hallmarks
|EPBM (Britannia metal)||Flatware from the UK and US with an alloy of 93% tin, 5% antimony, and 2% copper|
|EPNS (Electro plated nickel silver)||Flatware created in the UK and US that contained an alloy of 60% copper, 20% zinc, and 20% nickel|
You can also notice some other markings referring to silver, including:
- Venetian silver – Finding this mark means the flatware is created of a mix containing silver and base metals. In other words, each piece still has silver but in a lower percentage.
- Sterling inlaid – Despite the word sterling in this mark, you should know that this flatware actually doesn’t contain sterling silver.
- Silver soldered – Pieces with this mark are silver-plated without solid silver content.
- Treble plate – Such flatware features a base metal coated by three silver plating levels during production.
Most silverware sets come with standard place settings of six or twelve pieces. Collectors like canteens with a 12 place setting, making them most valuable. In rare cases, you can find the one with a 24 place setting that almost always comes with a considerable premium.
Since silver is valuable as a precious metal, heavier silverware will be more pricey. For instance, table forks weighing 14 ounces (400 g) will be more sought after than lighter pieces weighing only 1.8 ounces (50 g).
In the past, people often melted silver items during war or economic crises and used them as currency. The most famous is the silver furniture that Louis XIV ordered in 1664. It took almost twenty years to complete the production, and he sacrificed it a few years later because of the war.
You can do the same thing nowadays, but be aware that antique silverware is more expensive than the pure silver it contains.
This container for keeping silverware typically increases the service’s price. The canteen value is typically higher when you have one made of wood without legs.
Antique silverware services typically have ivory handles. Be careful with trading it because some countries have banned the ivory trade. On the other hand, handles made of bones are entirely legal. You can recognize them by the tiny capillary holes covering the surface, while ivory is perfectly smooth.
The Most Valuable Silverware
People used sterling silver flatware only a century ago. Nowadays, dedicated collectors look for beautiful rare sets, and some pay a small fortune for the most precious ones.
Perles Sterling Silver Flatware – The design from 1876 with a classic pearl chain on handles will cost you up to $13,400.
Fairfax Sterling Silver Flatware – Gorham silverware produced this gorgeous design in 1910, and you can get a set for $11,700.
Chantilly Sterling Silver Flatware – It is among the oldest silver flatware patterns you can find on the current market. The reproduction began in 1895, and you need to set aside $11,100 for a set.
Repousse By Kirk Stieff – This silverware with a floral design introduced in 1845 will cost you up to $10,500.
Antique silverware is highly trendy nowadays. Honestly, there are very few such quality items that you can buy for an affordable price.
These collectibles’ prices depend on silver purity and weight and its current price on the precious metals market. This moment is excellent for selling silverware since the silver value is exceptionally high.