As you help clean out a relative’s home or perhaps your own house, you may come across some utensils. Before putting these items in a donation bin, it may be worth examining these utensils to determine if they are sterling silver.
At The Vault Jewelry and Loan, we want to help you get the most from your sterling silver silverware set, and our expert appraisal team is ready to offer a thorough and accurate appraisal for sales or pawns.
Why Silverware Was Originally Sterling Silver
For most of history, humans used bronze, copper, wood or iron utensils. While these utensils transformed our eating habits, they also left foul tastes due to reactions with food or enzymes in the mouth. Sterling silver first appeared in the 12th century. This new metal was more robust and versatile than before, making it perfect for use in utensils.
Unlike other attempts at silverware, sterling silver was less reactive with food and the mouth’s enzymes, leading to a lesser aftertaste. The sparkling appearance of sterling silver also made it a popular utensil option among the elite, as it was a visible indicator of wealth that guests could admire as they enjoyed a meal among friends.
Why Is Silverware No Longer Sterling Silver?
The phrase “born with a silver spoon” directly results from the elite’s preference for sterling silver silverware throughout the centuries. Silver was and still is a precious material, meaning this high cost made it unattainable for most consumers. While the creation of electroplating with nickel silver in 1840 helped alleviate some of the cost, a more significant issue remained in that sterling silverware still left a distinct taste.
It wasn’t until 1913 that inventors found a solution for creating a low-cost utensil with no aftertaste in the form of stainless steel. Adding chromium to steel changed the electrode potential of the metal to create a rust-resistant utensil that still offered the attractive shine of silver. Today, stainless steel is the leading choice for most utensils, making sterling silver silverware a rare find.
How to Tell If Silverware Is Sterling Silver
Contrary to popular belief, even if silverware is “real” sterling, it may not be a pure substance. Pure sterling silver is too soft to eat with and can tarnish or bend after frequent use. Therefore, “genuine” sterling silver is an alloy mixture of sterling, copper and other durable materials. Some methods you can use to determine if your silverware is real silver or a common stand-in such as stainless steel include:
Performing a Close Examination
The amount of wear on a piece of silverware indicates the amount of sterling silver present, as silver and silver substitutes wear differently. Over time, silver-plated items are more likely to chip and expose the metal underneath. Look for wear along the edges and handles to confirm your utensil is sterling silver.
Finding the Imprint
Real silverware often features an imprint from the maker, which you can find with a magnifying glass. An authentic piece may have a marking that reads “STER” or indicates the amount of pure silver present with a “92.5%” or “925”.
How Much Are Silver Spoons Worth?
Sterling silver has a melt value or specific worth due to the amount of silver metal present. If the value of silver is exceptionally high, many people will melt down their antique silver items. The fluctuating value of silver metal means the worth of items like sterling silver is subject to constant changes.
To calculate your sterling silver utensils’ value, you can use one of many online calculators available.
Sell Your Sterling Silverware and Serving Dishes to The Vault Jewelry and Loan
At The Vault Jewelry and Loan, we specialize in buying and selling various items, including sterling silverware. Whether you are simply curious about a sterling silver spoon value or want to sell some serving dishes you found, our team is happy to work with you.
We offer competitive pricing and use a thorough appraisal process to help you get the highest value for your items. If you want to learn more about our pawn and loan services, we invite you to complete our online contact form, call us at 703-379-1006 or visit one of our locations in Virginia.