Affordable Antique Solid Silver Cutlery Buying Guide

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Affordable Antique Solid Silver Cutlery Buying Guide

As individual pieces or in complete matching sets, antique solid silver cutlery has wide appeal to many collectors. Antique solid silver cutlery features beautiful designs and quality craftsmanship that connects us to history and tradition. Some collectors look for the highest return on value, while others want affordable antique solid silver cutlery that can add a touch of sophistication to their special dinners and occasions.

There are several factors that impact the value of solid silver cutlery.  The condition of the cutlery, the origin and craftsman, the design, the completeness of the set, and the rarity of the item are all factors that affect costs. A little research and pre-planning can go a long way in helping you find affordable antique solid silver cutlery that meets your tastes in design and won’t put you over your budget.

History of Antique Solid Silver Cutlery

Silverware, also known as flatware, and cutlery evolved through the centuries as diets changed and technology grew. From flint, stone, and bone in the Stone Age, clay spoons in around 5000 BC, skewers in ninth century, to the advent of forks as we know them in the seventeenth century, the use of cutlery is deeply rooted in our history and culture.

Although silversmiths and the use of silver was around for centuries, it wasn’t until the early eighteenth century that silver cutlery sets that included a knife,, fork and spoon became the mainstay of dinner service for the upper class in England. Still relatively affordable compared to gold, silver became the standard for a beautiful dinner table.

The artistic and architectural styles that evolved through eras directly impacted the design and ornamentation found on solid silver cutlery and flatware. By the late 1900s, dining sets grew to large proportions to include serving pieces and patterns became ornate and extravagant. After the Second World War, plainer styles and simpler sets became the fashion. In 1842, silver plating was invented as a cheaper alternative to solid silver. Stainless steel is the standard for most cutlery produced today.

From simple Puritan styles to elaborate Huguenot designs, there is a width and breadth of choice and value when it comes to finding affordable antique sold-silver cutlery and flatware.

Discover Affordable Antique Solid Silver Cutlery

The standard of solid silver or sterling silver at 92.5 percent pure silver and 7.5 percent other metal (usual copper) was adopted in England in the 1300s. To establish a means of guaranteeing quality, silversmiths had their crafts assayed at local offices and all finished pieces included hallmarks that helped to identify their maker, date, assay office, and purity. Hallmarks often combined symbols, letters, and the initials of craftsmanship makers.

These hallmarks, along with the condition, type of piece and type of set provide collectors with a means of determining the value and cost in searching for affordable antique solid silver cutlery.

Periods Influencing Solid Silver Cutlery Patterns

Patterns of antique solid silver cutlery are often influenced by the period in which they were design. The following table illustrates some of the styles and patterns of different eras.

Period

Date

Style

Examples of Patterns

Early Georgian

1695 to 1727

Plain, simple and sturdy

Hanoverian, Rat-tail

Mid Georgian

1727-1760

Lavish and ornate

Fancy backs, Detached Shell, Scroll-back

Late Georgian

1760-1830

Elegant and graceful

Old English, Bright-cut Engraved, Feather Edge, Fiddle

Victorian

1830-1900

Exaggerated decoration, fancy

Old English, Fiddle and Thread, Fiddle Thread and Shell, Bead Pattern

Early 19th Century

1900-1950

Functional and less decorated compared to Victorian, Arty Nouveau and Arts and Crafts

Old English, King’s, Queen’s, Victoria pattern, and Hourglass

Mid-Late 19th Century

1950-

Opulence, Tudor displays, Gothic

Lily Pattern, Albany Pattern, Hanoverian, Rat-tail














 

Factors to Consider When Buying Affordable Antique Solid Silver Cutlery

The following list outlines factors to consider when purchasing affordable antique solid silver cutlery and flatware:

  • Condition - A general rule of thumb is that the better the condition of antique solid silver cutlery, the more valuable it is. Items that are damaged have been altered or repaired are generally less valuable. Considering the age and use of antique solid silver cutlery, some wear and tear is to be expected.  
  • Complete sets or Canteens - Fully matched sets or canteens of antique solid silver cutlery will be more expensive than putting together a collection of pieces. When looking for affordable antique solid silver cutlery, consider acquiring items with similar or matching patterns that work well together as a more cost-efficient approach to building your collection.
  • Rarity - Certain serving sets or pieces, as well as patterns and monograms may be rarer and less available. The more difficult a piece is to find, the higher demand is for it and thus the more expensive it will be.  More common pieces will be easier to find and may be a better choice when looking for affordable antique solid silver cutlery.
  • Age - A later edition of a particular style may be less expensive than an early edition. Try to find later editions of styles and patterns you like as a more affordable approach to building your solid silver cutlery collection.
  • Hallmarks - Pay close attention to hallmarks when looking for affordable antique solid silver cutlery.  Hallmarks denote authenticity. More rare hallmarks and those denoting special occasions tend to drive up the cost and value of solid silver cutlery. Be wary of forged hallmarks, which tend to look blurry and soft.

Common Hallmarks of Affordable Antique Solid Silver Cutlery

Hallmarks remain a great way to authenticate and value antique solid silver cutlery. The follow list outlines some of the more common hallmarks of British solid silver cutlery.

  • Hallmarks that indicate standards of solid silver purity include:

England

The Lion Passant

Scotland

Thistle Mark pre 1975,  The Lion Rampant post 1975

Ireland

The Crowned Harp

England and Scotland

Britannia for Britannia silver (95.84 percent pure silver) from 1697 to 1720

  • Some assay office town marks include:

London

The Leopard’s Head

Birmingham

The Anchor

Sheffield

The Crown

Edinburgh

The Castle

Dublin

Hibernia

Norwich

Very rare - Castle over a lion passant

Glasgow

A tree, fish and bell

  • Dates - Alphabetic characters were used to identify dates, and styles of each type of letter were changed in consecutive years. Cutlery with marks commemorating special occasions are often considered more valuable.
  • Makers Mark - Maker’s marks started off as symbols, but eventually switched to the crafter’s initials.  Certain makers, such as Paul Storr, Hester Bateman, Christopher Dresser, and Omar Ramsden, are more valuable than others.

How to Care for Affordable Antique Solid Silver Cutlery

As beautiful as it is, solid silver cutlery does tarnish and requires proper care to hold its value and stay looking its best. Although some authorities suggest dishwashing is safe, it’s best to hand wash and dry antique solid silver cutlery to prevent damage and pitting.

The following table outlines several methods of removing tarnish from antique solid silver cutlery:

Method

Description

Polishing powder

Polishing powder and pastes can help keep cutlery clean. Stick with products made specifically for silver to avoid scratches.  Polishing does require more time and effort than other cleaning options.

Silver dips

Silver dips are a great way to clean those intricate and ornate patterns that can be found on many pieces of antique solid silver cutlery. Silver dips should never be used on heavily tarnished pieces as it could impact the finish.

Electrolytic kits

These kits are great for lighter tarnished pieces and involve dipping cutlery into a wash solution. Kits should not be used on heavily tarnished pieces as they can damage the finish.

Baking Soda

Baking soda and hot water in a shallow, non-stainless steel dish lined with aluminum foil is another way to remove tarnish from solid silver cutlery. Soak cutlery in the wash until water cools, and then polish with a soft cloth.

Finding Affordable Antique Solid Silver Cutlery on eBay

Once you determine the type of antique solid silver cutlery you want to purchase, visit the Antiques portal on eBay, click on sub-category ‘Silver’, then sub-category ‘Solid Silver’, and finally sub-category ‘Cutlery’ and begin searching for item listings. The Categories list on the left-hand side of the eBay page helps to narrow the search.

Searching for Antique Solid Silver Cutlery and Flatware on eBay

Search eBay listing titles for specific words when shopping for antique solid silver cutlery and flatware. For example, to find a solid silver mustard spoon, type Solid Silver Mustard Spoon into the search box, and then click the Advanced button to customise the results. Also visit eBay’s Search Tipsppage for more advice on searching for affordable antique solid silver cutlery with keywords. If you can't find the exact affordable antique solid silver cutlery you want, try shopping eBay Stores.

Conclusion

Antique solid silver cutlery and flatware are great collectable items, but can be expensive depending on availability, age, condition, and style. Hallmarks are often a great way of investigating and determining the value of solid silver cutlery.  When searching for affordable antique solid silver cutlery, try looking for more common items in good condition with authentic hallmarks. Creating your collection piece by piece, keeping in line with your theme and preferred pattern, may be a more cost-effective approach compared to purchasing complete canteens or sets. Once you have the right research and information in hand, you can buy affordable antique solid silver cutlery safely and securely on eBay.

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