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Antique Sterling Silver Flatware

Updated on February 27, 2015
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If you're looking for a unique addition to your household dining set, you might consider adding aset of antique sterling silver flatware. One of the best antique items to own because it lasts forever and continues to look great even after a hundred years, antique sterling silver flatware is a fantastic option for special dinners or any occasion where you want to add a little extra class to a dining event.

This article will tell you all about antique sterling silver flatware and get you acquainted with the use and options. It will talk about the different uses for antique sterling silver flatware, and the issues with owning items such as these. I will also touch a bit on the value of sterling silver flatware, and what you can expect to either pay for them at an antique store, or what you might receive for them by selling them.

Let's look at antique sterling silver flatware right now.

Antique Sterling Silver Flatware: What Is Sterling Silver?

So before we talk specifically about antique sterling silver flatware, let's talk about sterling silver itself. What is sterling silver? It is not 100% pure, but in fact it is an alloy containing about 92.5% silver, with the remaining 7.5% actually made up of other metals. This is done in order to add rigidity and hardness to the metal, because pure silver is a bit soft for use in everyday utensils.

The purity of sterling silver is indicated (usually) by a printed number on the pieces themselves, usually 925, or 925 / 1000. This indicates that it is the proper percentage, and therefore sterling. If you see this marking on your antique sterling silver flatware, it's a confirmation that your cutlery is indeed sterling in composition.

The alloy metals are usually something like copper. The only problem with these alloys is that the less silver is in the utensil, the more likely it is to tarnish. Tarnishing is a fact of life with silver, but we'll talk more on that later.

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Antique Sterling Silver Flatware: History of Sterling Silver Flatware

There was a period of around 100 years in history, from the mid 1800's to the mid 1900s, where antique sterling silver flatware was simply the only way to dress a fancy dinner table. As a precious metal that was still relatively easy to obtain, especially compared with gold, silver became a way to show a bit of posh without cleaning out the savings. As the craze began to peak in the early 1900s, the variety and detail of antique sterling silver flatware hit a peak, with flatware patterns becoming very elaborate, and dining sets including more than 100 pieces.

As the taste began to change at the end of the Second World War, people began looking for simpler cutlery that was at once cheaper to purchase and easier to clean. The complexity associated with handmade silver cutlery meant that only the rich could afford it.



Antique Sterling Silver Flatware: Issues and Complexities Today

Today you can find lots of antique sterling silver flatware for purchase, but before you make the plunge you should consider that this kind of thing requires a little extra care.

As mentioned before, silver will tarnish, and it tarnishes more depending on how impure it is. You'll need to be prepared to clean the silver oxide off of your cutlery from time to time. This takes some time, but the result is sparkling, mirror finish knives and forks!

Also, antique sterling silver flatware will ding and dent a little more easily than stainless steel. The metal is a bit softer, so you might want to refrain from banging them together. They will also scratch and develop a patina over time. This can be a desirable look, and doesn't diminish from their class or value.

Antique sterling silver flatware is pretty fancy, so you don't necessarily want to have it out for all occasions. Consider having it as a secondary set of cutlery for special occasions instead of the everyday set you use all the time.

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Antique Sterling Silver Flatware: Finding It!

So how does one go about finding antique sterling silver flatware anyway? The best place to start your search is within your own household! Ask your relatives or grandparents if such a set exists. Often your relatives will be thrilled to pass on a set to you, and then you'll have a bit of family history too.

If you're not lucky enough to have a family set of antique sterling silver flatware kicking around, you can always check out a local antique store to see if they have anything. Since the value of silver isn't ridiculous, it's pretty easy to find a cheap set that looks quite vintage and attractive. You might find they're missing bits and pieces, or they might not come in a fancy wooden box. Keep looking around, and you're sure to find a good, matching set.

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    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      I have a set that I rarely use, but should. Thanks for the information. I may have to get mine out, polish it and use it for a dinner soon. It is such a lovely way to make a meal special.

    • galine profile image

      galine 4 years ago from Chicago

      Very good article, I have a set of antique silverware (as well as the china set) from my grandmother. It all makes a beautiful display in the china cabinet take it out about once every six months to shine and polish it.