Silver Explained: Sterling or Plate ?

There are two categories for silver:

1) Sterling Silver

2) Silver Plate  

In both categories there are two subcategories: Hollowware and Flatware.

Sterling Silver 

Silver Plate

Sterling Silver can be identified simply by its marks. Almost all Canadian and American Sterling will be marked 925 or Sterling, while all English silver will have British hallmarks. Reading the hallmarks on British silver can be a bit tricky, but to put it simply, a lion walking side view with his paw up is the mark of British sterling. There are other accompanying marks that will refer to the date and city where and when it was made.  

Sterling Silver will always have a silver value as the metal itself has a value of its own. Prices will go up over the silver value, but only if the piece is more collectable or sought after, such as silver wine funnel or a pair of early Georgian Candlesticks. Most sterling flatware will only have a silver value, but there are quite a few patterns and even some Canadian one’s like Birk’s George II that will have a value greater than the silver price. 

 Getting a value on silver plate can be a little more tricky than its sterling counterpart.

Their values are considerably less but certain piece can and will have a strong collectible value, such as large candelabras, centrepieces and smaller collectible pieces like silver-topped perfume bottles.

Age will play a major factor as well as condition; if any of the silver is missing or worn off, its value will diminish greatly.

Almost all silver-plated flatware has little to no value, but there are always exceptions and is best to check with an expert. 

Pieces must be in top-notch condition to hold any value. Pieces that are damaged will have less than 10% of their value, as the cost of repairs is quite expensive.