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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, the silver plate value is relatively low. So how much is this common antique worth? Is a full silver plate 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 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. Silver plating is a process in which a thin layer of silver is plated over a base metal such as copper or brass. This process helps protect the underlying metal from corrosion or oxidation, thus increasing its longevity.
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 the base metal. During the Victorian era, there was a high demand for silver housewares. Manufacturers would implement these processes to create cheap silver plate 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 vs. Sterling Silver
The majority of the value of 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.
Unfortunately, scrapping silverplate is not common. Since there is only a tiny amount of silver on each item, there is no significant melt or scrap value for the silverplated antiques. Instead, pieces that are more decorative, rare, and in good condition might have a higher resale value. Silverplate value is more about the antique market than the metal market.
The value of silver-plated antiques can range from a few dollars to hundreds or even thousands in rare instances. Generally, the value depends on the age and condition of the piece, as well as factors such as maker, design, and decoration. For example, a good quality example of silverplate made around 1840 can be worth between $5 and $300, depending on its condition and rarity.
It’s also important to reiterate that silverplated items have very little actual silver content in them, so be sure to research thoroughly before you purchase. Sterling silver antiques are generally worth significantly more.
1Look for hallmarks.
One factor that will impact silver plate 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.
2Identify 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:
3Collect 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 silver plate. When it comes to the intrinsic value of the metal (if you were to melt it), there is virtually none.