How can you tell the difference between sterling silver and silver plated flatware?

  1. American sterling silver products made after 1850 are always stamped with the word "sterling," and sometimes also include the numbers .925, indicating the silver is 92.5% pure.
  2. British sterling carries 4-5 stamped hallmarks identifying the company, the location, date of manufacture, etc. These can be matched with photos in the silver hallmark database. Similarly, American manufacturers employ hallmarks or sponsor's marks that can be identified by matching photos.
  3. The first patent for silver plating was issued in 1840. Older pieces are sterling, although they may not be stamped as such.
  4. Some of the early makers of silverplate flatware were Rogers Bros, Rogers & Bros. FB Rogers Silver, Wm Rogers, the Meriden Britannia Company, Middletown Plate Co. (Superior Silver Company) and others. Many of these names were used well into the 20th century. In 1898, this group of companies formed International Silver Company.
  5. Some of the silverplate manufacturers also released sterling patterns, but these are stamped "sterling," whereas the plate is not. Many of the sterling pattern numbers are recorded in a database or databases.
  6. Some of the stamps used to distinguish silverplated tableware are: IS (International Silver), IC, Brittania, EPNS (Electical Plated Nickle Silver), A1, Triple Plate, 3x, Quadruple Plate, 4x, Silver on Copper, EP, EP on Copper, and a whole host of initial and pictorial marks that can be matched with pictures in the silverplate database.
  7. Myth: Silverplate is magnetic; silver is not. In truth, neither is magnetic. Stainless steel shows varying degrees of magnetism.

    Myth: Silverplate doesn't tarnish like genuine silver. In truth, both will tarnish, because both are genuine silver. The difference is, sterling is sterling silver all the way through; plate only has a thin skin of silver over a base metal. Stainless steel doesn't tarnish.

  8. Silverplate has no scrap value. Even the thickest plate is only about .20mm (8/1000th of an inch) thick, and refineries won't buy it because the process of reclaiming silver from plate is too expensive.