- Written by Dr. Lori Verderame Dr. Lori Verderame
Here are my top tips for identifying, preserving, collecting, using, and enjoying sterling silver.
Look for the marks. Sterling silver pieces must, by law, be clearly marked using symbols, numbers, icons, and letters, which are “sterling” or “sterling silver” spelled out.
Another required mark is an image or depiction of a striding lion figure facing left, called the lion passant. These marks indicate value, fineness, and quality of a piece and have been widely used over the years.
The most common silver mark is the number 925 to indicate the 925 parts per 1,000 parts silver purity standard, or 92.5% pure silver, within the object. The other 75 parts are usually copper for strength and durability.
Like decoding and understanding pottery marks and other identifying markings on art or antiques, if you can’t find these marks that tell you that you have a piece of sterling silver, then you probably don’t have an actual piece of sterling silver.
Places to look for the mark include the underside of the silver piece, close to the bottom, or around the bottom of the base. Silver marks may be on the underside of a teapot lid or on the back of a piece of sterling silver flatware.
Seek out quality. Look for large pieces of sterling silver with good weight and quality and highly decorative pieces with intricate designs or repoussé.
Don’t overlook the flatware. Sterling silver flatware or silverware is some of the most highly prized sterling silver that people have in their homes.
Sterling silver flatware should have the word “sterling” or the number 925 on the back of each individual spoon, knife, or fork. Maker’s marks and pattern names may also be found on the back of a piece of flatware.
Flatware can be very valuable. People, including young collectors, currently collect sterling silver flatware and look for specific patterns and styles.
Look for specialty pieces like shrimp forks; long iced tea spoons; chowder spoons with large, round bowls; fish knives; and other pieces that match a sterling silver set. Serving pieces will increase the overall value of your set too.
Patterns matter. Make certain the pattern name is the same on all of your sterling silver pieces.
Look for exact markings, which show if pieces in your flatware set were made at the same time. You can tell if your set was accumulated in the same pattern but purchased over several decades by the marks: The pattern will look the same, but the markings will be different.
Store it right. Keep your storage box closed when your silver is not in use. If you have a storage box that is felt or velvet lined, keep your sterling silver flatware in the box. Store your sterling silver in its own individual places within the storage box. Forks go with forks, spoons with spoons, etc.
Don’t stack silver. Do not store unwrapped sterling silver flatware, as the pieces can be scratched or dented easily. Some pieces may be hollow and susceptible to dents. Stacking silver pieces is a no-no.
It’s important to keep sterling silver properly stored so the pieces will retain their good condition and value.
Dr. Lori Verderame is the award-winning Ph.D. antiques appraiser on History channel’s The Curse of Oak Island. Dr. Lori offers free information about antiques appraisals and selling at drloriv.com and youtube.com/drloriv.