If you’ve recently purchased a set of antique silver or inherited some pieces, you’re probably wondering if what you have is valuable. The good news is that no matter what type of silver you have, you do have pieces that will look great, even if they’re tarnished now. The bad news is that these pieces may not actually be worth as much as you’d like. In order to gauge how much your silver is worth, there are a few things you have to determine.
Is it Real Silver?
The first thing to determine when approximating your antique silver’s worth is whether or not what you have is actually real silver. If it is, you do have valuable pieces. If it’s not, you have some pieces that look great but aren’t worth as much. In order to determine this, you need to clean up the pieces using tarnish remover or one of the many home solutions out there.
Now you want to carefully search the piece for specific markings. If you can’t find any, what you have is likely silverplate. It looks nice, but it’s not true silver. Instead, it’s something such as copper that has been plated with a thin coat of silver. If the piece is fairly lightweight, that’s another sign that it’s plated.
If, on the other hand, you find the word “Sterling” stamped on the item, then you do have a piece of sterling silver.
Look for Additional Markings
If your piece was made after 1850 in the U.S., it will be marked with one of three things. The first is simply the word Sterling. It may also be marked as .925 or as 925/1000. If it’s simply Sterling, you likely have a piece that is pure silver. If you find one of the two numbers, then what you have is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper.
Very Old Pieces
If you believe you have true antique sterling silver that was made before 1850, it won’t have a mark on it. However, there is something you can do to test it. You’ll need to consult with a silver expert, though. These professionals can do an acid test that will show if the piece is true silver or not. Don’t attempt to do any type of testing on your own—you could damage your piece, decreasing its value!
Determining the Pattern
If you find that your piece does have a silver mark on it, you can search online to see if you can determine the manufacturer or the pattern. This can take some time, but there are a number of websites out there that include many high resolution images of different silver patterns that you can compare yours to. You may even get lucky and find a hallmark on the silver. This is a small image used by the manufacturer to mark the piece. A quick online search should tell you who that manufacturer was, making your task much easier.
Of course, you can always take your piece to a silver professional. These experts will be able to help you quickly determine the value of your pieces.