Have you inherited a set of silver flatware, or maybe a silver tea set? Many people today buy stainless steel, but actual silverware in the form of flatware, trays, or tea seats was a luxury item that your parents or grandparents may have owned. If you have been lucky enough to inherit a set of silverware, you may be wondering how much it is worth. The answer lies in how it was made, influenced heavily by the age of the item.
The Beginning of Silver Flatware
Once upon a time, many years ago – 12th century England, to be precise, royal and highly wealthy families decided to use sterling silver as flatware. This was the same quality of silver that was being used in silver coins. During the Industrial Revolution, silverware began being mass-produced, making it somewhat more affordable and definitely more available. Members of the newly-growing middle class purchased silverware as a sign of their wealth and gentility. For over a hundred years, upper-middle-class families likely owned silverware that was ornate and nearly solid silver.
Silver Suffers in the Great Depression
When the Great Depression hit, people fell into financial trouble. Purchasing silverware–including all the work involved in owning it, such as hiring servants to polish it–was unaffordable. That’s when silver-plated flatware became popular. Flatware that is silver-plated has a thin layer of silver painted onto its surface, but it is primarily not a silver piece. Silver-plated items look pretty, but they cost significantly less than sterling silver. Therefore, they are worth less if you inherit them.
So How Much is Your Inherited Silverware Worth?
Now that you know some of the history of silver in the home, you can use the time period of your set to help determine its worth of your inherited silverware. If it has been passed down through the generations from the 1800s, there’s a chance it might actually be sterling silver. In fact, there are ways you can check for yourself if your silver items are sterling. Look at the bottom. If it says “sterling” or has the numbers 925, 900, or 800 inscribed in it, you’ve hit the silver jackpot–sort of. Chances are, your inherited set will end up being recycled for scrap metal. Very few silver flatware sets have real value today–they would need to have been made by a highly valued silversmith or be of an intricately beautiful pattern to be kept in-tact and not be melted down.
Most likely, though, your silver flatware, trays, tea sets, and other dining accessories are silver-plated. Silver-plated items have less worth than sterling silver, and a professional like the ones at Old and New Shop can help you decide if it is worth selling. If you do decide to sell, we can help you get the best price for your silver items.