American Silver

Tips & Guides Newsletter

Published by Semler Appraisals & Estate Liquidations
A Professional Service for the Valuation of Personal Property

Summer 2001    Vol. 3, No. 2

American Silver 

The two most common types of silver found in homes today are silver plate and sterling.  Of the two, sterling usually has a higher value and will be stamped “sterling” if it was produced in America after 1869.  Prior to that date, the silver content of sterling varied greatly.  The amount of silver depended on the country of origin of the coins that were melted to form the objects (thus the term “coin silver”).  After the Revolutionary War, the mint set a standard of 892 parts of pure silver per 1,000 for the manufacture of American coins. In 1837, this was improved to 900 parts per 1,000, and in 1869 improved again to the standard still in use today, 925 parts per 1,000.  The other 75/1000 parts are other metals, usually copper, added to make the silver durable and less soft.    

Silver plating is the process of placing a thin layer of pure silver over a base of another metal, usually copper or a white metal.  Plated silver is never marked “sterling” and may not be marked at all.  You may see NS (nickel silver), EPNS (electroplated nickel silver), EPC (electroplated copper), or other symbols on plated items.  While most plated items are less in value than similar sterling items, be aware that Victorian era silver plate is increasing in value.

Remember:  all sterling is silver, but not all silver is sterling.  

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  • Lorrie Semler is a Certified Member of the International Society of Appraisers, specializing in Antiques & Residential Contents.


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