When it comes to buying silver, buyers can choose between antique solid silver and silver plating. Silver is a precious metal used for making homewares, coins, jewellery, and various other items. Solid silver and silver plating offer numerous benefits and each are identifiable by their unique hallmark stamps.
Silver is a soft, white metal that is highly electrically and thermally conductive. It occurs naturally in its pure form, as an alloy with other metals, and in minerals. Because silver is a soft metal, it is often mixed with other metals to create an alloy. Silver alloy is, therefore, the most common type of silver available, and is used to make all kinds of items including ornaments, jewellery, coins, cutlery, and tableware, as well as for various industrial purposes. Most antique and modern silver consists of 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent copper, making it strong enough for everyday use. However higher qualities of silver are available. These include Mexican silver, containing 95 percent pure silver and Britannia silver, containing 95.8 percent pure silver.
Benefits of Antique Solid Silver
Antique solid silver is silver alloy. Often referred to as sterling silver, antique solid silver items are highly valued and often considered collectors' items. Solid silver looks lustrous, feels heavy, and is quite durable and strong, making sterling silver suitable for tableware, vases, bowls, and other homewares. Antique sterling silver offers several benefits over silver plating. Antique solid silver items are far more valuable than silver plated items, are more durable, and do not wear over time. These benefits are important when looking at buying certain items, like antique silver jewellery and antique silver tableware.
Benefits of Antique Silver Plating
Silver plating refers to an item that features a thin layer of solid silver over the top of another metal, usually something durable and less expensive than silver. The silver plating acts like a coating over the item, giving the attractive appearance that solid silver offers. The greatest benefit of silver plating is that it is far less expensive than solid silver. Since the 18th century, silver plating has been in use, offering less expensive homewares to those unable to afford solid silver. Many pieces of antique silver plating feature Old Sheffield Plating. Over time and with use, silver plate tends to wear away.
Identifying Antique Solid Silver and Silver Plate
Solid silver is usually identifiable by a hallmark stamp. The stamp 925, .925, or S925 all refer to sterling, or solid silver. If an item features the word Sterling on it, it is likely to be American sterling silver. British solid silver may feature the a lion passant hallmark for English silver, lion rampant hallmark for Scottish silver, and the crowned harp hallmark for Irish silver. Britannia silver may feature the hallmark stamp of Britannia. Silver plate is identifiable by the stamps E.P, E.P.N.S, or E.P.B.M.