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Many people visit antique stores to get their silverplate tea sets and platters appraised, hoping that they strike gold. In most cases, their items are worth much less than they thought. Unfortunately, silver plate value is relatively low compared to other silver antiques. 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.
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.
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.
The scrap value of silverplate is typically low, as it contains only a thin layer of silver over a base metal, making its silver content minimal. Since silverplated items have very little actual silver content in them, be sure to research the item before you spend a lot of money. Sterling silver antiques are generally worth significantly more—both in scrap value and resale value.
Please note that the values provided are only estimates and can vary depending on factors like age, condition, rarity, and market trends. This table may not accurately represent current values.
|Silverplate Flatware Set (Service for 8)||$50 – $200|
|Silverplate Tea Set||$75 – $350|
|Silverplate Tray||$40 – $250|
|Silverplate Candlesticks (Pair)||$30 – $150|
|Silverplate Serving Bowl||$25 – $125|
|Silverplate Goblets (Set of 4)||$40 – $120|
|Silverplate Napkin Rings (Set of 4)||$20 – $80|
|Silverplate Salt and Pepper Shakers||$15 – $75|
|Silverplate Gravy Boat||$20 – $100|
|Silverplate Punch Bowl Set||$50 – $300|
Beginner Collecting Tips
Look 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.
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
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
- Items with elaborate enamel designs
- Collectible souvenir spoons
- Pieces with gold or rose gold detailing
- Silverplated holloware
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, silverplate items can tarnish over time. Tarnish is a thin corrosive layer that develops on the surface due to exposure to air and moisture. Regular cleaning and proper storage can help slow down the tarnishing process.
The key difference between sterling silver and silverplate lies in their composition and value. Sterling silver consists of 92.5% silver, making it valuable due to its weight and precious metal content, which can be sold based on the current metal market. This intrinsic value makes solid silver antiques a potentially good investment.
On the other hand, silverplate is a base metal coated with a thin layer of silver, containing only a minimal amount of silver. This makes scrapping silverplate uncommon, as it holds little to no significant melt or scrap value. The value of silverplate items primarily depends on their rarity, decorative appeal, and the antique market rather than the metal market.
To determine if silverplate is damaged, look for areas where the silver layer appears thin or has disappeared, revealing the base metal underneath. Signs of wear may include discoloration, dullness, or an uneven surface.
Polishing silverplated items too aggressively can cause wear, as excessive pressure may remove the thin layer of silver. While tarnish is a removable dark layer that forms due to oxidation, worn silverplate refers to the actual loss of the silver coating, exposing the base metal underneath. Some individuals may mistake wear for tarnish, leading them to over-polish the item, which can inadvertently cause further damage by removing more of the silver coating.