Whether you choose to collect sterling or silver plate, flatware or holloware, the following tips should usually apply …
But first! Remember sterling silver was and is today- a form of currency. It is bought and sold by weight. Its value can be enhanced by history, workmanship and quality. There is ornamental silver like jewelry and ornamental items and there is utilitarian silver- the stuff you use and that enhances your home. This of course is where my interest goes. I like silver on a table that is used. And the pieces I like have a reason to be in existence. So silver plate is fine with me for trays, lazy susans, and water pitchers. But I would shell out for smaller sterling items like a mustard pot. In general the rule is that what the Hostess or guests touch are sterling while what the butler touches can be plated. Crazy but I have seen people pass on a lovely sterling tea set because the tray was plated. It was supposed to be and if you think it through, it makes sense. Silver again is a commodity- so why waste it on a tray that must be sturdy and is usually not enhanced with decoration. The teapots etc are beautifully decorated and therefor enhanced in value but not so with the tray. Everything useful can be beautiful and everything handmade has a use. And in the Continental home or the American homes of the 18th and 19th C- nothing was wasted. Only the over-abundance of the robber baron years is the exception.
- Choose a Style, Era or Maker… Reflect upon your lifestyle and personal taste, then make choices that will be a good fit. Personally, I always am on the hunt for a woman maker and although they are rare I have found pieces from Hester Bateman in the past.
- Will you be using your antique silver daily… or will you save it for special occasions and holiday celebrations? There are many speciality areas of silver collecting, and some of them are more fanciful than others. Some collectors devote their whole attention to a specific pattern while others collect antique silver from a particular maker or era. Some only collect a particular type of piece, such as fish forks or bon bon servers, while many expand into all areas. I always recommend using your silver and I have several (uncollectable) plate pieces that are perfect for a tailgate or holiday celebration.
- Mix-n-Match… Don’t be afraid to mix and match patterns. This collecting technique has great aesthetic appeal on a table. This is a wonderful option particularly with hard-to-find, discontinued silver flatware patterns and is often a must for putting together a set large enough for affordable entertaining.
- Wear or Damage… Signs of use do not necessarily detract from value, while damage may. Slight damage on a rare silver flatware or hollow ware piece will not significantly reduce its value. The price of a tarnished piece should be signficantly lower than retail. Be wary of buying tarnished antique silver online as it can hide otherwise obvious wear, damage or repair. Picking up tarnished pieces at estate sales and flea markets may be an affordable option, but be sure to check them closely for damage.
- Monograms… Many collectors view old, elaborate monograms as a lost art form and historically important. It does not detract from the desirability or value of a piece when a monogram is present. Antique silver can, however, be even more valuable without a monogram. As you become familiar with silver, you will be able to detect monogram removal. Monogram removal can damage a piece of antique silver and significantly reduce its value.
- Authenticity… Some antique silver collectors frown on pieces that have been updated, such as those with replacement knife blades. Silverplated blades are often found with wear. They can easily be replaced on hollow handle knives, so some collectors prefer to have them refitted with stainless steel blades. However, stainless steel was not introduced in silver flatware until the early 1920s. This is one of those aspects of antique silver collecting that can be a matter of personal preference, but you do need to be aware that your flatware may go down in value if you alter the knife blades.
- Repair — Dents, disposal or other damage can be repaired by a silversmith. Pieces can also be re-plated. The cost is prohibitive for more common items, but is certainly worthwhile for restoring rare antique silver items.
- Modified Items… Be aware that these exist and learn how to determine if a piece has been modified from its original state. Common silver flatware pieces are sometimes altered to make them appear to be rare and valuable pieces. For example, spoons are sometimes cut to resemble ice cream forks or a silver sugar spoon may have been pierced to resemble a silver sugar sifter. Look for signs that pieces have been modified and avoid adding them to your antique silver collection.
- Forgeries… New forgeries in popular and rare silver patterns appear for sale regularly on the Internet. In particular, silver salt spoons and rare pieces such as asparagus servers. Many of these pieces have no silver maker’s marks. Forged makers marks in silver have appeared for hundreds of years. The age of a piece does not necessarily indicate it’s authenticity so learn as much as you can about antique silver markings before investing in an expensive piece.
- Educate Yourself… There are many good books available on collecting antique silver, not necessarily to buy as you will find them in the collecting section of your local library or borrow some from us. We have a lending library and we are happy to share. Or make use of the sites below…
- Online Encyclopedia of Silver Marks, Hallmarks & Makers’ Markshttps://www.925-1000.com
- http://www.silvercollection.it ›