Is Sterling Silverware value just based on the weight of its silver value alone? We get this question asked often and the basic answer is "no." The intrinsic silver value of the raw silver in a place setting of sterling silverware is not the only factor that goes into its evaluation. There are a plethora of other factors that can sometimes make a light weight pattern or piece worth substantially more than a heavier one.
Here are the key metrics and criteria used to evaluate silverware:
Weight of silver - The weight of silver is definitely a big factor in evaluating silverware. If you have a lightweight and delicate pattern versus a massive heavy ornate pattern that literally weighs down your hand, then it will be likely the heavier pattern will be worth more money. 90% of all sterling flatware piece settings that include a knife, fork, salad fork and teaspoon will weigh between 4.6 to 5.4 troy ounces. The more popular sterling patterns like Chantilly, Strasbourg, Buttercup, Repousse, Joan of Arc and Old Master, just to name a few will fall in this weight range. The lighter patterns weigh usually between 4- 4.6 troy ounces per setting. Damask Rose and Rose Point are a couple of examples of these. Heavier patterns range between 5.5-6.50 troy ounces. These usually include many Tiffany sterling patterns. There are also even heavier patterns, but they are few and far between, you will often see these very heavy weights in Buccellati patterns made in Italy and also by C.J. Vander of England. The rule of thumb value wise is the heavier the better as it pertains to value.
Rarity - A pattern that is considered rare, which has little supply and a high demand can be worth far higher than just its silver content. Most middle of the range patterns like Grande Baroque by Wallace or Francis 1 by Reed & Barton and many of the other top 25-50 patterns in popularity will be worth typically double their scrap value on a pre-owned retail price level. Tiffany patterns trade typically at 4 times scrap value. There are some patterns and pieces that are so rare that the price per troy ounce can be astounding. We just saw a small demitasse spoon made by Paul Revere sell at auction for $45,000 per troy ounce! On the flip side, a pattern that has little to no demand will likely only be worth its silver value. These type of scrap patterns like American Classic by Easterling, George & Martha by Westmorland or Heiress by Oneida are ones that are going to be melted down recycled into silver bars. Unfortunately, there are literally hundreds of sterling patterns that fit into this category. People just don't entertain like they used to and some of these once popular patterns have diminished in demand to the point that they are only worth scrap value.
Age - A sterling silverware pattern can be worth more due to age and antique value. However, in the silverware industry it takes an awful long ways back to have age become a big price factor. If you have silverware from the 18th century or older, then you can figure extra money accordingly. However, even silverware as old as the early 1800's from the 19th century can often only be worth scrap out value unless it is something more magnificent and worth of being collected.
Condition - The condition of sterling silver is everything, just like any other type of antiques or collectible. Customers and collectors want sterling silverware to be in pristine shape. If it is overly dented or scratched or damaged, then this can adversely affect the value and bring a piece down to just scrap value. Knife blades can especially often be a huge problem when the blade portions get salt pits or heavy scratches, these steel blades can't restored or buffed as easily as the softer sterling metal in forks and spoons.
Personalizations and Monograms - In about 99% of the instances out there regarding sterling silverware, if a piece is monogrammed or has a big personalized inscription, it will generally devalue a piece by half or more - often bringing it down to just its core silver value alone. Never monogram your silver if you can help it.
Foreign Silver - The world demand for silverware in the past 150 years has largely centered around American made sterling made by Tiffany, Gorham and several other manufacturers and silversmiths. As a rule, made in America generally has a greater chance of being worth more than its silver value than its counterparts made elsewhere throughout the world. This is not a myopic opinion on being American ourselves, but merely an observation. I'm not sure if it could be quantifiable or not, but if you ever examine major auction houses around the world, you will find that the majority of the most valuable silver items up for sale are made by American manufacturers. Let's face it we had Tiffany on our team, which can't be beat!
We hope you enjoyed our article on silver!
Let us know if you have any other questions or comments. You can email us directly or leaves comments down below.
Thanks, Greg Arbutine
Sterling Silver Buyers Owner
Sterling Silver Buyers wants to purchase your sterling silver flatware and hollowware! Please sell your silverware items to Sterling Silver Buyers!