How do you tell if antique silverware is real silver?

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Original Post

Ok, I know this might seem like a silly question to some, but I don't have any experience with this.

Every once in a while, I'll run across silverware at an estate sale or something. How can you tell by looking at it whether it's real silver or just silver-plated?

I assume that real silver silverware is more valuable and might pick it up the next time I see some, but not really sure what I'm buying.


Posted at 9:20am Mar 3, 2009 EST


Isette says

It should be stamped "925" or have some sort of hallmark or marker's mark that you can check and verify.

Posted at 9:28am Mar 3, 2009 EST

Ah, thank you! I assume the marking will be down on the handle?

Posted at 9:29am Mar 3, 2009 EST

Isette says

Wikipedia on Hallmarks:

American silver maker's marks:

Posted at 9:30am Mar 3, 2009 EST

Isette says

Yes, usually I've found it at the neck of the piece (Where it connect the to eating part) on the underside.

If you get really savvy there are also certain patterns that are more valuable as well!

Posted at 9:31am Mar 3, 2009 EST

Yep, I used to work in fine antiques and the 925 is on anything that's sterling. Sometimes it's hard to find it, but keep looking.

Posted at 9:38am Mar 3, 2009 EST

Thank you!

Posted at 9:44am Mar 3, 2009 EST

Sterling flatware made in the U.S.should have 'sterling' stamped on the backside handle.
English sterling has a series of stamps to indicate where and when it was made. This take a good bit of knowledge to identify these. England also produces '800' silver {especially antique}, which is 80 percent silver content.
Most of what you find at estate sales will be silver plated.
Sterling flatware currently is priced about $15 or more per piece. If you find it under $10 it is a bargain. Complete sets are higher priced per piece.
A five piece place setting for 8 plus serving pieces could easily cost over $1000 dollars.

Posted at 1:46pm Mar 3, 2009 EST

if you want I can do silver testing for you.

Posted at 12:09am Mar 4, 2009 EST