Silver-Plate and Sterling Silver

IMG_1972

Silver pieces are so beautiful!  Be it a silver teapot, a silver bracelet or a silver hair-pin, they are all lovely.

Recently I was looking at two silverware patterns:  Daffodil and Prelude.  Daffodil, by International 1847 Rogers Brothers, is a silver-plated flatware, whereas Prelude, by International Sterling, is sterling silver.

A lovely silver-plated warming dish for dips or sides.
A lovely silver-plated warming dish for dips or sides.

What is the difference?  Silver-plate is a very thin layer of silver over a base metal such as brass or copper.  The value of the silver is minimal since it is just a thin coating.  Sterling silver, on the other hand, is all silver.  It maybe solid silver or a hollow silver (often knife handles are hollow due to weight).  Of course, the value of Sterling silver is greater since there is more silver used to make the item.

A silver-plated fork shows the base metal underneath the silver.
A silver-plated fork shows the base metal underneath the silver.

If an item is marked “925” then it is sterling silver.  The 925 refers to the minimum parts silver for every 1000 parts of matter.  To estimate the age of an item, the marking (Sterling silver, 925, and/or the manufacturer’s name) can be used as a guide.  A bit of research on the internet may be of assistance if trying to determine a date of manufacture.

IMG_1967
A collection of sterling silver and silver-plated flatware. Both may be called silverware.

If purchasing a silver item at an antique store, thrift store or eBay, be sure and look at the marking on the item rather than the title or tag.  Sometimes sellers don’t understand the difference between silver-plate and sterling silver.  It isn’t uncommon to find a silver item mislabeled, so beware!

Bonus:  Read this earlier post regarding the safety of silver-plated items and food.