Most people come to an antique store to get their silverplate tea sets and platters appraised, hoping that they strike gold. In most cases, this isn’t the case. Unfortunately, silverplate value is quite low. So how much is this common antique worth? Is a full silverplate tea set worth more than a teapot? Are there any pieces that are worth collecting? Keep reading to find out more.
What is Silverplate?
Silverplate is a type of houseware that is made from base metal and plated with a thin coating of silver. It has the look and feel of sterling silver for a fraction of the cost.
The Difference Between Silverplate and Silver
The majority of the value with silver items comes down to weight. Silver is a precious metal that can be melted down and sold based on the current metal market. Therefore, silver has an intrinsic value that is long-lasting. Heavy sterling silver items composed of 90% silver can be worth a small fortune depending on the metal market. In this sense, solid silver antiques can be a good investment. On the other hand, silverplated items are only worth what someone is willing to pay for them. Since there is only a small amount of silver on each item, there is no melting value for silverplate. Pieces that are more decorative, rare, and in good condition might sell for more money. Silverplate value is more about the antique market than it is about the metal market.
History of Silverplate
The process of silver-plating was invented in 1742 by Thomas Boulsover. He mastered this process known as Sheffield when he was repairing a knife made of copper and silver. He discovered that he could fuse copper and silver through a fortunate accident. This finding would lead him and several manufacturers to cut the cost of producing silver items. Around 1840, the process of electroplating was invented, which inevitably cut production costs further. An electrical current is used to apply a very thin layer of silver to the top of base metal. During the Victorian era, there was a high demand for silver housewares. Manufacturers would implement these processes to create cheap silverplate items that looked like the real thing. People who would otherwise not be able to buy silver could now afford it, and so it was mass-produced.
Silverplate Collecting Tips
1. Look for hallmarks
One factor that will impact silverplate value is the manufacturer. If you are curious about what your silverplate item is worth, check if there are hallmarks and lookup antiques from that company. If you are looking to find a bargain, get familiar with some more popular manufacturers and hallmarks that tend to sell for more money.
2. Identify unusual patterns
Several factors can influence the desirability of a silverplate item. For example, a later piece with no detailing is likely less desirable than one with various motifs. More expensive antiques tend to have:
- Elaborate patterns with floral reliefs or repoussé
- Funky shapes in a specific style like Art Deco or Art Nouveau
- High-quality etchings
3. Collect less common items
One of the more common (and least valuable) silverplate items you see is flatware. Unfortunately, there is an oversupply of silverware. Why? Pretty much every family owned a set in the 1950s. The demand for this item is also very low. Silverplated flatware is very high maintenance, so most people prefer stainless steel nowadays. As such, silverplated flatware is not worth a lot unless it’s rare or very old. Some higher value silverplated items might include:
- Odd sized platters and serving dishes
- Very early and decorative pieces
- Collectible souvenir spoons
- Pieces with gold or rose gold detailing
- Silverplated holloware
Remember, beauty and rarity will impact the value of silverplate. When it comes to the intrinsic value of the metal (if you were to melt it), there is virtually none.