Antique Solid Silver Decanter Buying Guide

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Antique Solid Silver Decanter Buying Guide

Solid silver decanters are sought after for decorative and practical purposes, enhancing the way in which wines and spirits are stored and served in the home. Not just any old jug, solid silver decanters are of high interest to many collectors and enthusiasts as beautiful accent pieces that are lovely to display. An antique of this variety not only offers the beauty of solid silver, but also provides the user with history and monetary value. Before prospective buyers begin their search for a decanter, it is advisable for them to follow a few simple guidelines to ensure they find the ideal piece that meets their needs. A buyer will be better equipped to make an easier decision once he or she considers the types of antique solid silver decanters available, what makes a decanter antique, what constitutes solid silver and the features to look out for in an antique solid silver decanter. The following guide will assist buyers in becoming familiar with these important factors to help make the purchase process easier.

History of Antique Solid Silver Decanters

Though ceramic decanters were used by ancient civilisations such as the Roman Empire, the more modern concept of the decanter can be said to have started in the 1600s. As winemakers in Renaissance Europe began to store wine with corks, they looked for a solution to eliminate the sediment that was found at the bottom of the bottles when pouring it to the glass. With invention of lead crystal glass in 1676, the answer was found in what is now known as a crystal decanter. From the eighteenth century onward, decanters were a prominent part of hollowware found in houses around the world. Not only was sediment kept free from the glass, but wine was also found to have qualities that were unlocked by the movement of the air within the decanter.  These decanters often combined the lead crystal (which was used to see the sediment) and fine solid silver that decorated the body and stopper. Over time, many fashionable styles found their way onto the market, and many were handed or sold down over generations.

Discover Antique Solid Silver Decanters

Solid silver decanters are not made of pure silver, nor are they built from silver metal alone. Decanters were designed to be predominately transparent to allow the contents to be viewed, especially as it was poured. However, solid silver tended to be used for ornamentation, decoration, and a way to add detail to the design of these decanters. Silver on its own is very soft to work with; therefore, solid silver actually refers to a percentage of silver (typically 92.5 percent) that is mixed with another metal (typically copper). Solid silver is often known as sterling silver. When it comes to finding out if a decanter is considered antique, the age of the item is the determining factor. An item that is 100 years and older is generally considered antique, as opposed to vintage items that are typically 50 to 100 years old. Though it is somewhat debated, some professionals do consider items made prior and up until the 1930s as antiques. Regardless of which of these two definitions is applied, the important point to consider is that not every older solid silver decanter is actually an antique.

Materials and Parts Used in Antique Solid Silver Decanters

The parts of a solid silver decanter are generally made from a combination of different glass and silver materials.




The section of the vessel that holds liquid.


Placed in the top of the neck to limit oxygen entering the body.


Thinly designed section above the body through which the liquid is poured.



Sterling Silver

Contains 92.5 percent pure silver and 7.5 percent alloyed metal.

Britannia Silver

Contains 95.8 percent pure silver and 4.2 percent alloyed metal.

Lead Crystal

10 to 30 percent added lead oxide for enhanced clarity and malleability.

Plain Glass

Traditional glass that does not contain added lead.

Types of Antique Solid Silver Decanter

While decanters are generally only used for pouring spirits or wine, the body of a solid silver decanter can vary significantly to suit different tastes.

Body Type



Solidly built, often from cut glass, with four sides and lacking curves.


Has an outward curve below the neck that is not wider than the base.


Slow tapering from the neck of the decanter to the base.

Ship’s Decanter

A thin neck with a wide, round base.


A noticeable outward curve below the neck that is wider than the base

Factors to Consider When Buying Antique Solid Silver Decanters

  • Silver Plate – A buyer should ensure that the decanter is solid silver and not sliver-plated, which is a thin coat of silver applied to a less valuable metal such as bronze.
  • Lead Crystal – The glass used in some antique silver decanters can have harmful lead that can enter the wine. Caution must be taken with authentic lead crystal.
  • Amount of Silver – The quantity of solid silver found in any given decanter can vary from a small ring around the neck to expansive covering of the glass. It is best to consider the desired ratio of glass to solid silver before purchasing, as silver requires careful cleaning.

Typical Features of Antique Solid Silver Decanters


Placed inside the neck, the stopper of an antique solid silver decanter can be made of solid silver, glass, or a mixture of both. Some stoppers are plain and simple in style, while others are elaborately ornate and can even have small sculptures attached.

Neck Rings

A decanter will often have decorative ribs built in to the neck to assist with grip. The size and number of these neck rings can vary, while some decanters have no neck rings at all.

Silver Label

A collectable item in its own right, the silver labels used on some decanters are hung around the neck from a chain and indicate what wine or spirit is inside. This helps identify different contents that may be of a similar colour. The label may also be crafted into the silverwork of the decanter itself.


The silverwork on the body of a decanter can be anything from solid and understated sheets, to ornately defined artworks such as embossing. It can be wrapped around the container entirely, leaving small gaps with which to see the liquid inside.

How to Care for Antique Solid Silver Decanters

Before deciding on a final purchase, prospective buyers may want to consider a few methods of silver maintenance to keep their decanter looking great for years to come.

  • When it is not in use, keep the decanter away from moist conditions as this can tarnish the exterior silver
  • Make sure to keep dust off any glass that may be susceptible to scratching.
  • Occasionally polishing silver will help it retain its shine and remove tarnishing. Ensure to buff the silver after polishing and leave it dry, not wet.
  • If the decanter is picked up often, ensure to clean this area after use as dirt and sweat from the hands can cause corrosion on the surface of the silver.
  • If not in use, it is best to keep solid silver decanters in an airtight case as contact with oxygen can harm the antique exterior.

Antique Solid Silver Decanter Manufacturers

The following list outlines some of the popular crafters of antique solid silver decanters.

  • William Hutton and Sons
  • Crown and Coronet
  • Gorham
  • Hester Bateman
  • Reed and Barton
  • Villien

Finding Antique Solid Silver Decanters on eBay

Once you determine the type of antique solid silver decanter you want to purchase, visit the Antiques portal on eBay, click on 'Solid Silver' and start searching item listings. The Categories list on the left-hand side of the eBay page helps to narrow the search.

Searching forAntique Solid Silver Decanterson eBay

Search eBay listing titles for specific words when shopping for antique solid silver decanters. For example, to find a tapered decanter with a solid silver stopper, type 'Tapered Decanter with a Silver Stopper' into the search box, and then click the Advanced button to customise the results. Also visit eBay’s Search Tips page for more advice on searching for antique solid silver decanters with keywords. If you can’t find the exact decanter you want, try shopping eBay Stores.


Once purchased, an antique solid silver decanter can be a valuable addition to the home. With the shine of solid silver and the history of an antique, these charming pieces can enhance the serving of wine and spirits while remaining a valuable collectable. It is important to consider the various types of antique solid silver decanters, the different styles available, what defines them as antique, and what to expect from and how to care for a solid silver item can help buyers in making informed purchasing decisions. Once you have collected this information, you can buy an antique solid silver decanter safely and securely on eBay.

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