When is Silver Valuable?
There is no doubt about the beauty of silver, but is it valuable? If you’ve inherited some or bought some, then you’re not alone. People all over want to know if their silver has value. Today, we’ll show you how to find out what your silver is worth.
Firstly, let’s establish what ‘pure’ silver is. You are almost 100% guaranteed to have NO PURE SILVER. Technically, ‘pure’ silver is too malleable to craft into any solid item. Therefore, the most valuable silver you’re likely to have is sterling silver. Sterling silver is hallmarked with a ‘925’, which means that 925/1000 parts of the item is pure silver, with the other parts comprising other metals that make the item more sturdy.
The value of sterling silver is very dependent on the item itself. Silver jewellery, for example, isn’t worth much. Antique and vintage silver items, however, have the potential to be very valuable. If any silver that you own is sterling, it will have a ‘925’ hallmark on the item. Without this mark, you cannot guarantee a sterling grade for your silver. There is also Britannic grade silver, which is hallmarked with a ‘958’. Britannia silver is a slightly higher grade than sterling silver, but both are valuable when it comes to antiques and collectable items.
How to Discover the Value of Your Silver
Cleaning your Silver
The first thing you should do is CLEAN it. We have a guide that can help you clean your silverware. It’s nearly impossible to value an item unless it’s as clean as can be. Any scratches, dents, or discolouration will become visible, and maybe some helpful hallmarks as well. If your item has hallmarks, take clear photographs of them. Certain makers’ marks will have a serious impact on your item’s value. The condition of your item is the next biggest factor on the value of your piece. Silver with dents, scratches, or severe tarnishing isn’t going to go for much. So – if you’ve been gifted some silver – take good care of it so it maintains (and maybe even increases in) value.
Your next port of call should be an auction house. Many auction houses hold events where people are invited to bring their items to have them valuated and identified. Identification involves inspecting any hallmarks and specific stylistic features on the item. If your nearest auction house doesn’t do this, email them with high quality photographs of your item. Include clear, crisp photographs of the hallmarks and ask if they can help to identify the piece. Be aware – however – that these services incur a fee. If you want to sell your silver but don’t want the auction house fees, try eBay or something similar.
Collectability and Maker
Other than the condition and hallmarks on an item, the ‘collectable’ factor is considered. Items like vesta cases are highly collectable. Collectables like this can get away with small dents and scratches. A lot of vintage items of silver are worth more if they feature prominent or popular brands. This is where silver crosses over with memorabilia and other tchotchkes, gaining considerable value.
Items by famous makers will also fetch a higher price. There are silversmiths famous within the community, despite having been dead for centuries. Craftsmen such as Paul Storr and Mappin and Webb, and the very prominent Hester Bateman are all highly sought after.
Is Silver Flatware Valuable?
The same rules apply to flatware as any other element of silver. There are more specifics, however, to consider when valuating silver flatware. One of the first questions to answer is: what have you got? There are so many categories when it comes to silver flatware that you need to be certain about what you’ve got.
One of the most valuable categories of silver flatware is the canteen. Canteens are highly valued for their beauty, practicality, and sophistication. Essentially a wooden briefcase of cutlery, canteens come in a vast range of sizes and services. When it comes to silver flatware designed for serving up food and beverages, the first question is not how much, but how many. How many people does your item serve? A canteen designed for four will be considerably less valuable than a canteen designed for fourteen, which in turn will be less valuable than one designed for eighteen people, and so on.
Once you know how many people can be served with your antique silverware, the next question concerns patterns. Certain patterns are more collectable than others, and so it’s important to know the difference between a King’s pattern and a Queen’s pattern. If you – like most – do not know the difference, don’t worry, we’re here to help. Check out either of our guides regarding silverware patterns and see if anything matches what you have.
Don’t Be Daunted
While this whole process can sound very intimidating, don’t let it get to you. If you want to sell an item or you just want to know more about it, it’s worth exploring. You never know, you could be sitting on thousands of pounds!
Wherever your silver selling adventures take you – good luck!
Bethany Massey – Digital Assistant (Content Creator)
Having graduated university with a BA in English Literature and an MA in Creative Writing Bethany then joined the AC Silver team as a content creator. Bethany spends her days writing content for the AC Silver blog and other luxury goods/antique blogs.