Your Guide To Buying Antique Solid Silver Cutlery

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Your Guide To Buying Antique Solid Silver Cutlery

Silver,, a refined and adorned metal, has long been considered only second in the value to gold and has been used for thousands of years for the use of household ornaments, high-value tableware, utensils and the basis for many monetary systems of trade throughout history. Due to its durability and financial value, antique solid silver cutlery has become a sought-after collectable and the content of many family heirlooms that have been passed on from generation to generation.

This buying guide will help to identify the important factors a buyer must first consider prior to purchasing antique solid silver cutlery. It will highlight the historical value as well as outline how to maintain and care for such tableware.

The History of Antique Solid Silver Cutlery

Prior to place settings becoming popular before the 18th century, it was common for people to bring their own spoons to the dinner table. During pre-modern times, the ownership of silver spoons acted as a lower-middle class cultural marker, denoting both social class and distinguishing wealthy landowners and craftsmen from commoners such as serfs or escaped slaves.

From the years 1840 to 1940, solid silver cutlery, also known as sterling silver, became a staple in dining etiquette after an increase in silver companies had emerged. The height of the silver craze lasted close to 50 years and was responsible for creating up to 100 different flatware lines and up to 100 different various utensils, reshaping the way people interacted at the dinner table. Preserved and well-maintained antique solid silver cutlery is not only a historical relic from times past, but its monetary value is well known, making for an excellent long-lasting investment.

Discover Antique Solid Silver Cutlery

Antique solid silver cutlery is defined by both its physical composition and age. Antique silverware is generally classified as any silver dining item over 100 years old. Accurate identification of specific trademarks and patterns found on the tableware is necessary when placing monetary value on the item for either sale or insurance purposes.

Since pure silver is too malleable on its own, it is often partnered with other small amounts of metals (usually copper) to provide strength and endurance to the furnished article. After the alloying process, sterling silver becomes a careful combination of 92.5% silver and 7.5% metal, and retains its capability to be moulded, reshaped or hammered without damage.

When properly identifying an antique as solid silver cutlery, look for a hallmark that indicates the quality of metal from its country of origin standards. Hallmarks of solid silver cutlery that was made in America after 1906, for example, will be stamped with the numeric value of “925” or “925/1000”.

The Parts of an Antique Solid Silver Cutlery Set

Antique solid silver cutlery as a category encompasses an extensive collection of flatware, so deciding what to collect and buy is both a matter of personal taste and budget. Some buyers prefer to collect flatware from certain pristine manufactures, nationalities and centuries, while other collectors are drawn to hunting down and buying every flatware piece from a particular canteen set.  

Canteens are typically comprised of six or seven pieces per place setting and when buying or building a canteen it is recommended that the number of people in the household or the number of people being served be considered.

Items that can be found in a typical canteen

The utensil’s general use

Small knife and fork

Both the small knife and the small fork are used when eating the starter. If a soup is served, the small knife can then be used for butter and the small fork would be eliminated from the table.

Large knife and fork

Used for the main course.  The fork should typically feature long, straight tines. The knife should be sharp enough to cut meat, but still be dull enough to spread sauces or butter.

Large spoon

Used for soups. May either be brought out with the soup course or remain at the place setting throughout the meal.

Small spoon

May be brought out for tea or coffee after the meal, and is classically used for desserts.

Specially designed fish knives and forks

Used for a fish course. These pieces are more typical in antique sets.

*This set is often made from the same pattern as the canteen but can also frequently be found with ornamental bone, Ivory or with Mother of Pearl handles.

Fruit cutlery

Used as a charming means for serving dessert. Often have specific uses, such as scooping the meat out of grapefruit.

* This set is often made from the same pattern as the canteen but can also frequently be found with ornamental bone, Ivory or with Mother of Pearl handles.

Factors to Consider When Buying Antique Solid Silver Cutlery

  • Budget – Before beginning to buy or build a canteen the buyer should consider their budget. Purchasing antique flatware can cost hundreds and thousands of dollars. Since antique solid silver cutlery will appreciate overtime, it is wise for the buyer to be both clear and careful when making purchasing decisions. If the buyer does not have the luxury of buying full canteens right away, another option is to slowly build up your collection and purchase individual pieces one at a time.
  • Number of pieces to buy – Typically, canteen sets are comprised of six or seven pieces per place setting. When purchasing individual pieces, it is recommended that the number of people in the household or the number of those people served be considered. Even if the buyer is only purchasing or putting together canteens as a hobby or investment, it would be wise to collect the correct pieces to make up a place setting. A full canteen consists of twelve place settings, a half-canteen consists of six place settings and a double canteen is made up of twenty-four place settings.
  • Design – Flatware designs can be divided up into two categories: “ornate” and “simple”, although many design patterns walk a fine line between the two. Designs on antique solid silver cutlery can be extremely detailed, showcasing elaborate and intricate design elements. Much of the purchasing decision will be made based on the personal taste of the buyer, but if building a collection over time is chosen, designs types which are more widely available to the collector should be considered.

How to Care for Antique Solid Silver Cutlery

Cleaning and maintaining the beautiful appearance of antique cutlery requires the careful attention to
detail and a little bit of hard work.

When attempting to clean silverware it is important not to use any universal cleaner that the buyer may have lying around your home, as it may damage flatware, depreciating its value.

The buyer should pay special attention to hallmarks, carefully taping them over before starting, as rubbing off the hallmark can decrease the value of your heirloom substantially. If the buyer is cleaning old silverware for the first time they should gently wash the cutlery with a soft cloth or sponge in warm soapy water to remove any old polish that may be lingering on its surface. Once washed, the flatware should be dried thoroughly before gently rubbing the cutlery with a silver polishing cloth.

Tarnishing silverware is a result of silver reacting with the sulphur in the air or from interaction with food. Therefore it's best to store it away from any area where coal, gas, wood or oil is being burned. It is also advised to keep silverware away from foods such as eggs, fish and lemon. It is also advised to keep it away from liquids such as juice and vinegar. The buyer should always remember to protect antique solid silver cutlery from the natural air by storing it away in soft tissue paper that is preferably sulphur free.

Popular Antique Solid Silver CutleryManufacturers

These are the names of a few of the more prominent makers of solid silver cutlery:

  • Towle
  • Rogers and Son
  • Gorham
  • Tiffany & Co.
  • Walker and Hall.
  • Liberty & Co
  • Thomas Bradbury & Sons
  • Robert & Belk Limited
  • Moses Brent
  • Ollivant & Botsford
  • Joseph Angell
  • William Bateman

Finding Antique Solid Silver Cutleryon eBay

Once you determine the type of antique solid silver cutlery you want to purchase, visit the Collectables portal on eBay, click on Antiques and start searching 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 on eBay

Search eBay listing titles for specific words when shopping for antique solid silver cutlery. For example, to find antique solid silver teaspoon, type “antique solid silver teaspoon” into the search box, and then click the Advanced button to customize the results. Also visit eBay’s Search Tipsppage for more advice on searching for antiques with keywords. If you can’t find the exact antique solid silver teaspoon you want, try shopping eBay Stores..


Antique solid silver cutlery is not only a historical relic from times past which is great for collecting for sentimental reasons, but its monetary value is well known, making for an excellent, long-lasting financial investment that could yield lucrative profits. Choosing the size of your canteen, deciding which manufactures, nationalities and eras you would like to comprise your collection from, or the types of designs you would like to obtain requires a lot of extensive research on the buyers end.

Once you have collected this information, you can buy a piece of antique solid silver cutlery, or an entire canteen of antique solid silver cutlery safely and securely on eBay..


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