Antique Silver Items
Silver items have been popular for centuries all over the world, making silver antiques very desirable. Collectors can take advantage of a wide range of items from flatware to jewellery and even presentation dinnerware. The most important thing to check when looking at foreign antique or vintage silver is the presence or absence of hallmarks.
Silver and Sterling
Sterling silver may be the one of the oldest examples of consumer protection in the world. In Britain, the official definition of sterling silver, as 92.5 percent fine silver dates back to the reign of Edward the First. Some European countries like Germany and Russia have classed anything between eighty and ninety per cent as being silver, but that is low. Fine silver is normally set at 999 parts per thousand pure silver, and is very soft and malleable.
While Australia itself has no hallmarking system, many vintage silver pieces from other countries do bear hallmarks. This is particularly useful when dating sterling silver flatware, as many British makers included a date code on their pieces. Always check for hallmarks when looking for sterling silver antiques.
As a precious metal, silver has never been inexpensive. One result of this is the prevalence of antique silverplate, which consists of a base metal plated with either fine or sterling silver. It has no intrinsic metal value, but many seek it due to age and condition. As the silver does wear off, pieces that retain the original coating are often particularly sought after.
Collecting Antique Silver
There are two ways to look at antique silver items, such as a Victorian tea spoon. One is the metal value, which can be significant with fine or sterling silver, the other is the historical and collectable value, which often depends on appearance and condition. Silver flatware and dinner services are particularly collectable, as is jewellery, although that is valued in its own right.