As a collector of antiques, I have long been interested in sterling silver. However, I know NOTHING about it. I always eye the beautiful cases of sterling flatware, but don’t know where to begin nor do I even know what pattern I like!
|Sterling Silver Flatware Guide|
First things first, what is “sterling silver”?
In the United States, it only applies to an item which contains a minimum of 925 parts of silver out of 1000 parts. The remaining 75 parts are an alloy of nickel, copper, or other metals. Therefore, you get the mark of 0.925. (Silver is too soft to be at 100% and therefore must have some other metal added to it). No silver less than 0.925 can be labeled sterling, solid silver, sterling silver, silver or ster. If you are buying it from someone and they label it as Sterling and is in fact NOT, they are subject to federal fines from the National Gold and Silver Stamping Act.
The word “Sterling” first appears on American silver circa 1800. Most silver items made through 1860 were actually 0.900 silver. Silver flatware made before 1968 in the US will vary with the amount of silver included. Sets made after 1968 will have the word “sterling”, “925-1000” or “.925” on it.
Note: all of these standards are referring to US made sterling. Different countries have different standards.
What is silver plate?
It contains alloys and is NOT sterling silver. I like to think of it as a microscopic level of silver over regular old stainless steel flatware pretending to be sterling. Don’t buy this, I say go big or go home.
Settings and Pieces
Most are available in 5 piece settings.
5 piece: Salad fork, soup spoon, dinner fork, dinner knife, teaspoon.
What are the standard serving pieces?
A table serving spoon, pierced table spoon, cold meat fork, sugar spoon, master butter knife, and pie server.
There are MANY other types of serving pieces available. For example, I own an asparagus server! haha!
How many place settings should I buy?
Buy at LEAST 8 full settings. However, most purchase more.
Should I get my set monogrammed?
NO. It will reduce the value of your sterling by 25-35%. No joke. This is also on the flipside, if you are buying vintage or antique sterling silver, if it has monogramming on it, it should be 25-35% cheaper than a pattern without a monogram.
Sterling flatware care:
You may put it in the dishwasher BUT handwashing is preferred. Do not wash with stainless pieces as a reaction can occur and leave little black dots on it.
***Be careful if you do choose to use the dishwasher. Most sterling silver knife handles are actually hollow and filled with plaster. Putting the knives into the dishwasher can cause the plaster to melt and permanently damage the knife. When you hand wash your knives, do not submerge them completely. Wash each individually under running water. If you submerge them completely in water, the water can seep into the hollow part of the knife and also cause permanent damage to the knife. We don’t want that!
To keep the silver shiny, you will need to polish it. Store in protective felt cases. Keep away from direct light, as it will cause the silver to tarnish. Do not store on wood directly as the wood contains acids that can ruin the silver.
How much is silver worth?
Silver is sold in troy ounces (31.10grams). The ounce we think of is actually “ounce avoirduopois” (29.35grams). If you are weighing silver at home, you will be weighing it in “ounce avoirdupois” and will need to convert it. US prices in 2014 have been around $19.8 per troy ounce.
OK, I’m ready, I want to buy some sterling silver! What pattern?!
Well, I’ve included pictures of the top 10-20 patterns sold in the United States. I have seen quite a few of these at estate sales and antique shows, but had no idea what the names were!
|“Chantilly” by Gorham|
1. Sterling Silver what it is and is not.
2. Sterling Silver info
3. Awesome sterling silver website
4. Best Flatware patterns (source of all of the pictures except the bottom one)
5. The Silverqueen
Note: I am not a silver expert. I am just someone who is writing about silver for fun. You need to perform your own research before you go about buying silver.
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