This post was updated on August 2019
There comes a point when the hand me down silverware you’ve accumulated from past generations of your family starts to clutter your space. This is when it's time to pass down or sell your old silverware -- it could be worth more than you think.
If you’re looking to sell your old sterling silverware , then you might want to learn how to tell if it’s actually worth something. As experts in the industry for over 10 years, Muzeum is educated in buying all types of silver, from all over the world.
We are interested in seeing your old silverware, jewellery, tea settings and cutlery, coins, bullion, and more. You can even check out today's gold and silver pricing by visiting our home page. We pride ourselves in fair, honest pricing for buying and selling your silverware.
That said, before getting a professional assessment, there are a couple of ways you can tell the value of your old silverware:
Sometimes we are handed down silverware from generation to generation – and don’t even realize how valuable these pieces are. If you are looking to sell your old silverware, know that there are multiple ways it is sold. Household silver can be sold to get melted down for its valuable material, or as is if it is an antique piece. If the value of your silverware is less because it’s not antique, you can sell it by the pound.
The thing is, silverware can be made of silver, coated with silver, or just a knockoff. When it comes to finding out how much your silverware is worth, you need to first find out whether or not it is actually made of silver (whether 50%, 80% or the most commonly seen, sterling 92.5%). After all, this is significantly more valuable than silver-plated items.
Sterling Silver: Sterling silver is commonly used to make items like silverware and jewellery because it is strong and tarnish-resistant. To qualify an item as sterling silver, it needs to consist of at least 92.5% pure silver, where the other 7.5% is comprised of other metals like copper. It’s distinguished by the numbers 925, sterling, STG, STER, or other markings (indicates percentage) stamped onto the piece as an indication of their quality.
Silver-Plated: Silver plating is generally more durable and less expensive. It is created using a process called electroplating. This is the use of electricity and an electrolyte, such as a cyanide solution, to cause tiny particles of silver to stick to a metal surface. The metal base is usually copper. The electroplating process runs until a decent amount of coating is built up, usually thousands of an inch thick. The coating is thick enough to be permanent and to allow the incising of often intricate designs.
Before you sell your old silverware, identify what it is made of to get a better idea of its value. After all, real silver items are worth a lot more than those that are just silver plated.
That said, how can you tell what your silverware is made from? This video by Mr. Richard Sisson of Chevy Chase Plating & Polishing does a good job of showing you the differences. We also have more details below that go over the various methods of testing.
The easiest way to determine whether or not your item is truly silver is to look for the hallmarks. Hallmarks are stamps/markings on the pieces that help indicate the purity of the metal within the piece. Look out for standard markings that include:
According to Forbes, most silverware will actually say “sterling” on the underside, to indicate it is, in fact, silver.
There are also hallmarks that identify where and when the item was made – these are referred to as a “maker’s mark.” On silverware and tea settings, the common location of these marks is underneath or on the bottom of the piece. More often than not, you will need a magnifying glass or a “loupe” to clearly see any hallmarks.
If your silverware was made outside the U.S, chances are that it won’t actually say 925 or sterling. Instead, if you are dealing with European or English silverware, check for a mark of a crest, lion or crown. Unfortunately, these markings can be hard to see, especially on old silverware. This is why it’s a good idea to have an experienced set of eyes look at it.
Another simple way to determine what your silverware or sterling silver is worth, is to confirm its material with the magnet test. We recommend getting a strong magnet that you can find at your local hardware store like an earth magnet.
The process is very simple. Silver is non-magnetic. Hold the magnet near your items and if your chain, ring, tea service set, or coins, are instantly attracted to the magnet, your items are not made of silver. Keep in mind that on most necklaces or bracelets the clasp itself is not made of silver, so don’t worry if you are only seeing a reaction from the clasp but not the rest of the piece.
If there is no reaction it does not necessarily mean that you are out of luck. The item could still be heavily plated or counterfeit, which is why we always recommend coming into our store and getting a professional assessment done.
Another easy way to tell if your old silverware is, in fact, silver, is to rub a white cloth on it. If your old silverware is really silver, tarnish should come off and leave black residue on your cloth. This is because real sterling silver oxidizes when exposed to air. This builds up a layer of tarnish, which is why it’s so important to polish your silverware regularly – especially before you sell it.
Silver doesn’t have a strong scent. So, if your old silverware has a brass or coppery smell to it, that means it contains metal and is unlikely silver.
Once you have determined whether or not your item is made of a precious metal, the next step is determining the purity of it. While there are “at home” ways of determining the purity, they are not 100% accurate. If you visit our store to determine the value of your old silverware, we can use our XRF machine to determine the exact metal breakdown of your items.
If you know your old silverware, may have heard about the Rogers Brothers or 1847 Rogers Bros. as the brand is often known by. Rogers Brothers Silver goes back to the early 19th century when, in 1847, the company became a household name after perfecting the process for electroplating to create iconic floral designs accented by sophisticated-looking flairs along the handle.
Despite common belief, you won’t get much money for their line of pieces. They were a common in every household and there are a lot of them out there still, which brings down their rarity level. If you’re looking for something that may have value, look for pieces that were made before the Rogers Bros. were bought in 1898 by the International Silver Company. You can tell which Rogers Bros. silverware are from after this time period by the “IS” (International Sterling) mark printed on the item, like on the backs of spoons and forks.
As for identifying the date of silverware, an elaborate design indicates that the piece was made before 1900, according to some reports. After Rogers Bros. was bought in 1898, the International Silver Co. simplified the design on all of their pieces. Also, keep an eye out for specific patterns on the silverware. For instance, a popular piece manufactured in the 1930s features a design with interlocking rectangles.
When looking to sell gold or silver, it’s best to trust a professional eye that has the tools in order to do proper testing on your items. Sometimes even with the knowledge it’s difficult to appraise your items at home – either you have difficulty finding a hallmark or are not getting proper readings from your magnet. Only an XRF machine can really tell you the precious metal content of your item.
We are happy to help you identify the true value of your silverware. Visit us and get the Muzeum experience where you can trust you are being taken care of professionally and with your best interests in mind. Our methods of pricing are transparent, and you’ll always get the best prices for your items – guaranteed.
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