Sterling or Silverplate?

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    Sterling or Silverplate?
    How To Tell The Difference

    There are a few ways to help identify whether a piece of flatware is sterling or silver plated.

    Before you try to look up the mark...

    You may want to go through these simple observations to find out if your item is Sterling or Silverplate before you try to look up a mark.

    It can make your search much shorter because hallmarks have been used on Sterling for over 700 years. Silverplate has only been around for 150 years. Many sterling dealers do not sell silverplate. Knowing the difference can save you a lot of time.

    Observe the item and take note of :

  • SURFACE: If there are any areas where the silver has been worn away and another metal shows through (note a difference in the color of the metal), it is plated. Here is where you look:
    • Look in scratches. The base metal may show through at the bottom of the scratch line.
    • Look at the back of the teaspoon or fork bowl. If you have several pieces, that makes it easier. Look for a wear line where the metal shows through

      OR a 'reinforced' area which platers added by melting an extra blob of silver on the back of teaspoons. Sterling does not need to be reinforced. Only silverplated items would have that.

  • MORE ABOUT COLOR: Because both silver and silverplate tarnish equally, this observation does not always work. However, there are a few things you can look for:
    • Is the tarnish consistant? Look for any oxidation that has broken the surface.

      Various base metals were used when making silverplated flatware including copper (oxidizes), german silver (whiter color) and white metal.

      If any other colors have broken through surface, it is not sterling.

  • WEIGHT: If the item is fairly heavy, it is probably plated. This test is not 100% true, but silver is very light compared to most metals.

    Silverplated flatware is made of a base piece of metal with a light silver coating. The metal used in the base metal is almost always heavier than a real sterling silver item would be. This is simple but often a fair test.

    Look at the label or mark on the back. Here are a few tips about reading marks:

    Reading The Stamped Mark

    Both Sterling and Silver Plate almost always has a name or brand stamped on the back of each piece.

    The stamp may be words, numbers, a few letters, a symbol or a combination. It may even contain the words "silver plate" but usually not.

    Examples of Silverplate Brands: Wm Rogers, 1847 Rogers, Tudor Plate. There are at least 400 known silverplate stamps and hundreds that have not been catalogued.


    Examples of American Sterling Silver Flatware Hallmarks

    Examples of

    Hallmarks

Reference Notes
How to tell the difference between stainless steel and silver: Read: Stainless or Silverplate?.

What is Silverplate?: Read: The History of Silverplate.

Copyright 2009 Vintagesilverplate.com