If you've acquired some collections from your parents or enjoy scouring local garage sales for hidden treasures, you might be wondering whether the silver you currently have in your possession has any value. Once you determine whether your silver is sterling, you'll be able to consult with the professionals to determine its value and potentially find out more about selling antique silver. Here are some tips to help get you started.
Know the Difference Between Silver and Silver Plate
Firstly, it's important to understand that not all silver is created equal. While items can have sentimental value regardless of their rarity, the fact is that sterling silver and silver-plated items simply do not have the same type of monetary value. Silver-plated items may not be of great value to antique silver buyers. That said, some antique silver-plated products can be sold for somewhat impressive figures. Typically, these items are rather rare and ornate in nature. You may find that there are silver plated tea sets or napkin rings that could be sold for a small profit. On the whole, however, silver-plated items don't tend to retain their resale value like sterling silver does.
How To Tell If It's Sterling Silver
Sterling silver items, and particularly antique sterling silver items, are bound to be more valuable because they retain the current market price for this precious metal and have a high level of craftsmanship. Here are a few tips that can help you determine whether you have a sterling tray or an antique sterling silver bowl in your possession.
- Clean and Polish: Before you can make a determination about the type of silver you're dealing with, you'll need to properly clean the item in question. This will allow you to more clearly see identifying marks (more on that in a minute). If the item looks like it might be tarnished, wiping the item with a silver polishing cloth can allow you to determine this for certain. If it's pure sterling silver, the black tarnish should rub off on the cloth. Other metals won't tarnish in this same way, so this can give you a better idea of the actual material.
- Look For Identifying Marks: Sterling silver items will typically be marked with distinguishing symbols or words. Items like these from the 19th and 20th centuries will often have the word "sterling" or the number "925" engraved on them. This applies to all sterling silver created after 1850 in the United States. There are other symbols to look for as well, such as lions, shields, monograms, family crests, crowns, or maker's marks. These may indicate that your sterling silver piece originated outside of the United States. Keep in mind that if a piece has no markings, that doesn't necessarily mean it isn't made of sterling. Older silver may not have these markings, which may make it more difficult to assess its value. However, the majority of sterling will likely have some indicator of its purity. You can always check with antique silver buyers or appraisers to be sure.
- Try Magnet or Acid Tests: There's a very quick way to know if an item is not pure silver. Take a small magnet and see whether it's attracted to the item. If it is, it's probably made of steel or another metal. If it isn't attracted to the item, there's a decent possibility that the item is made of sterling silver. There's another test you can also try (but be careful!). You can use a nitric acid test kit to assess the color change. Green and gold color changes indicate poor quality or silver plating, which cream or black may indicate either sterling silver or coin-quality silver. Exercise extreme caution if you take this on yourself, as the acid can burn the skin.
- Consult Appraisers and Antique Silver Buyers: In actuality, the best way to determine the value of these items is to talk to appraisers and antique silver buyers. These experts can determine the origins and the resale value of both silver plated and sterling silver objects. These professionals can also help you to determine the proper insurance value for items like these.
To find out more about selling your sterling, please contact us today!