Antique sterling silver is a wonderful gift for a wedding, baby shower, or other momentous occasion. Indeed, the two most precious metals that you'll find in jewelry are silver and gold alloys. But sterling silver has long been used in tea sets, vases, silverware sets, and more. Silver is also the gift traditionally given for one's 25th wedding anniversary. And here's an extra special fact about silver: it's formed in star explosions (supernovae). These stars are about 10 times the size of the sun, and when they explode, silver and gold are produced. So just think about that -- your silverware set is partially made of stars! Whether you're looking to buy or sell antique sterling silver, you want to know what to look for, where to get a fair price, and what kind of items are particularly valuable.
What Defines Sterling Silver?
Sterling silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper (though other metals can also be used in the alloy). Sterling silver exists because pure silver is actually too soft of a metal to be used in jewelry or tableware. You can tell what's true sterling silver from what's just silver-plated by the word "Sterling" or number 925 marked somewhere on the piece, something that dates back to the 19th century.
What Pieces Should I Look For?
If you're thinking of selling, make sure that your pieces are, in fact, all sterling silver (look for that 925 or "sterling" stamped somewhere). Antique sterling silver is of course, worth more, though some places may also buy depending on the total weight. You should certainly discuss with an expert, which we'll talk about more below.
If you're in the market to buy, you likely want to get an object that's both useful and beautiful. Flatware, a tea set, pitchers, picture frames, and jewelry tend to be the best options here.
How Do I Take Care of My Antique Silver?
Above all, you want to keep your silver from tarnishing. Keep in mind that despite being alloyed with a stronger metal, antique silver can still be scratched, dented, or otherwise marred, so you want to be extra careful when cleaning. Always check your silver over for anything that might be loose or breaking before cleaning.
Wearing clean cotton gloves and placing the silver on a soft cloth is definitely advised and try to not use silver polish too much since it actually can remove part of the silver as it cleans. Ideally, it should be dusted regularly with a soft cloth, but if you're trying to remove dirt or tarnish, warm water and some mild detergent is best.
Try to avoid completely immersing a solid silver object and make sure that it's properly rinsed off and completely dried before putting back. Corrosion can be avoided in some cases by applying a lacquer.
Do keep your silver in a dry place -- humidity and dampness can cause verdigris to appear, especially if it's a copper alloy.
Why Should I Sell Silver to Experts?
If you're looking to sell your valuables, you want to make sure you're getting a fair price. The experts understand the worth of your silver and won't try to cheat you of a fair price. Professional appraisers are one of the best ways to find a quote on how much your silver may be worth -- and they don't buy items they've appraised, so you can get a truly objective assessment.
The best place to go is an antique shop or antique dealer or an auction house -- and those places may also appraise your silver. Private buyers and collectors can also be a good source to sell at a higher price than you could get at a pawnshop or coin shop. Selling to experts means that you know your silver will be in good hands and you're likely to get the best deal possible.
Antique sterling can be both a beautiful gift and provide some nice revenue if you're looking to declutter or need some money. Research the best places to buy and/or sell before embarking on your silver journey!