There are three main metal-types used in making flatware: stainless steel, sterling silver and silverplate.
Sterling silver is generally the most expensive because of its true silver content. American sterling silver is 92.5% silver and the rest is copper or another metal. When identifying sterling silver, a piece will frequently have the word "sterling" on its back or underside. The word "sterling", as determined by the SilverCollect online silverware identification guide, is most commonly seen on American silver after 1860.
The next main type of flatware is silverplate, and is identified by its maker or company name and other key words such as "A1" or "quadruple plate". These key terms are simply indicators of the number of layers of silver on a particular piece. Silverplate is often less expensive than sterling silver because only a few layers of pure silver are added or electroplated onto a base of copper, brass, or stainless steel.
Lastly, stainless steel is the most commonly used form of flatware. Most of this flatware consists of a raw steel alloy mixed with other materials such as chrome and nickel. The highest quality stainless steel is made of 18/10 and 18/8 stainless steel and contains only 18 percent chrome and 8 percent nickel. Most stainless steel is extremely strong and durable.
As you can see there are various flatware metals to choose from, all depending on your personal style. Once you pick out a metal, there are many distinguishing styles to choose from such as Gorham Greenbrier Sterling Flatware, sold at a recent auction. If you are searching for your perfect flatware, Farmer Auctions is an excellent place to begin! And if you already own a set of flatware and need appraisal, our consultants at Farmer Auctions can assist in determining the style or price estimate of one's flatware. For further assistance, there are also several online guides, such as SilverCollect (http://silvercollect.org/) which can identify styles of silverware.
Written by previous Cataloging Intern from Hollins University.