Know your silver: Is it sterling or plate?

pitcherRecently clients have asked me about the value of their silver. But whether you’re considering jewelry, flatware, or Grandma’s prized candy dish, the kind of silver it’s made of can make a big difference in the item’s value.

Which silver do you have?

  • Sterling silver (the more expensive type) is actually an alloy. That is, 92.5% of the material must be silver, and the remaining amount is a metal, like copper, that’s used to strengthen the metal. Any sterling silver piece (made after 1900 or so) in the U.S. should have “925” marked on it.
  • Silver plate means that a very thin layer of silver has been electroplated onto a base metal, like copper, nickel, or other white metal. Look for the markings EP, EPNS, or “Silver on Copper,” all of which indicate silver plate.
  • Coin silver refers to silver coins that were melted to create an item. You’ll find coin silver in jewelry made in the 1800s and earlier.


Differences in value

  •  Plate’s thin layer of real silver means it is much less valuable than sterling. There’s so little silver, in fact, that it can’t be sold for silver content.
  • Sterling’s price has gone up in the past years. It’s fairly easy to recover so there’s an active market for it. It’s traded in troy ounces; one is equal to 31.2 grams. In the 1950s, silver sold for about 90 cents an ounce. Recently it was selling for about $14, according to


If you’re buying silver online, be sure to look for the identifying markings. You can also have it appraised to ensure you’re getting what you’re paying for.

As always, if I can help you with anything, including appraising that set of sterling flatware you’re no longer using, let me know!

Brilliantly yours, Aimee


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