Is it silver… err, wait, no its just silver plate.

Published May 5, 2015 by AntiqueMystique1
silver plate

Silver plate spoons.

Is it real silver… err, wait, its just silver plate.It’s like saving relics of the past from being completely rendered unless in a melded piece of…

I really couldn’t make sense of what I was gawking at today in the antique mall and the asking price was absurd.

The poor defenseless silver plated spoon and part of a silver plated cake server and fork were soldiered together to resemble?

I flipped the price tag over. Maybe this would shed some light on this strange outsider art creation. It was suppose to be a bird and the price was $18.

It’s not the first time I’ve ran into fine, functional antiques ‘re-purposed’ all for the sake of making something that serves no purpose to me as a collector.

I surmised (but couldn’t be certain) that the silver plate fork was maybe a ‘W. Rogers 1885’ at one time or it could have been produced by the Onedia silver plate company back in the Thirties. And that cake server fused to the fork was likely something a little more recent in the silver plate realm.

I’m no expert on silver plate. I did many years and hours of research and scoured the internet, read books and online articles about different pieces of silver plate and when they were produced. I’ve come to discover silver plate has to be micro-managed. A little bit of extra care goes a long way to keep it gorgeous. I’m not fussy if there’s a loss of silver plate missing from the back of forks or spoons.

Also, silver plate was an ‘electro-plated’ process that gives it its shine. And in the Victorian era silver plate was typically used when real silver couldn’t be afforded. Also, if a family was middle class in the Victorian era, they’d use porcelain tea pots instead when sitting down for afternoon tea, but I’m still doing the research on that.

My silver plate collection started out innocently enough with six small knives with pointy tips, blunt blades and a patent date: 1885. Then as the years went by, I turned up a salt and pepper shaker set, tea pot, sugar and creamer, tooth pick holder, more butter knives, forks, soup spoons, ladles, regular spoons, tea spoon (long handled variety), and the newest addition baby and/ or jelly spoons. The time it took me to inspect each piece of silver plate for signs of rust, corrosion, black tarnish residue was tedious and fun.

Silver plate is comprised of zinc, alloy, tin and other metals, then ‘electro-plated’ to give it the appearance of silver. Electro-plating is a process involving electric currents that pass over water when making a product like silver plate. Silver plate was produced back in the day (as far back as the 1800’s) as an inexpensive, fashionable alternative for those who may not have been able to afford an actual silver tea set and/ or silverware.

How do I tell when the silverware and/ or silver plated tea set was made and who created it?

I’d suggest looking on back of the silverware or underneath the tea pot, sugar and creamer set, etc. Sometimes there will be initials, serial number or a symbol stamped into the silver plate. Other times, however, the silver plate spoon, ladle, fork, knife, pickle castor fork, etc. will be absent of a maker’s mark and trying to find an exact date when it was produced can be like finding a needle in a haystack.

But because I don’t rely on collector price guides and never have, I do things the difficult way.

Nowadays there’s a wealth of information for those new to collecting silver plate. E-bay, Ruby Lane Antiques and Esty might be a few starting points online for those searching to identify their inherited, purchased or ‘given’ silver plate items. I say given because sometimes people don’t want to deal with silver plate and will be more than happy to unload it on somebody else.

Some of the questions I get asked about silver plate:

“How do I sterilize silver plate?”

My answer:

Boil it in water on the stove for five minutes and keep an eye on it. It can tarnish as well when doing this so I found out. Also, do NOT reach in the pot and pull out silver plate items with your hands. I use metal chicken tongs to extract the silver plate from the water bath, place it on a clean towel and let it cool off before I wash it by hand with normal dish soap (any brand will do) and one drop of bleach in the water. Too much bleach is highly corrosive to metal, so I always rinse my silver plate items thoroughly in plain water.

How would I remove the stubborn tarnish from silver plate and what I used:

In the beginning I used a steel wool pad, dish soap, hot water and a lot of elbow grease! However, this really didn’t “shine” the silver plate but did take off layers of grime and tarnish.

I also polished my silver plate using Wright’s silver polish. And some silver polishes are very bad for silver plate so silver plate so I’ve later read (years later). Beware when selecting a silver polish as most will just clean the surface and not the heavily tarnished silver plate.

I also watched some do-it-yourself Youtube videos of soaking silver plate in a tub with hot water on a piece of aluminum foil with some baking soda added into the mix until the tarnish goes away. And there’s another school of thought that claims doing this ‘baking soda’ method will do more harm than good to silver plate and so will the many different silver polishes on the market.

What was touted as being the least abrasive for silver plate is Blitz silver polish. So I went onto a few websites promoting Blitz silver polish as the least toxic with no fumes. I reviewed a few ‘before and after’ pictures that appeared to be too photo-shopped to be believed. I read various reviews about Blitz silver polish. Then I found a video of the actual product being put to the test. My assumption? It appeared it left behind a film that dulled the finish and won’t waste my money on it.

So… I decided to go with the baking soda method because it’s inexpensive, very easy and doesn’t involve using so much elbow grease and wasting so many dust rags or getting black fingers as a result of the tarnish.

Using the baking soda method made my silver plate beautiful again! I also used some Wright’s silver polish on it afterwards, washed and dried the silver plate items and let them thoroughly dry on the counter.

By trying this baking soda method I realize I might have potentially ruined any collector value my silver plate had going for it, but I’m not interested in parting with it. I do hope this helps anyone starting (or adding to) their silver plate collection. Thanks for reading!

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5 comments on “Is it silver… err, wait, no its just silver plate.

  • Silver plate gets a bad rap, IMHO, much of the time. 🙂 When I grew up we had a set of what my mom called “the good silver” which was kept for 97% of the year in its own velvet lined foldover case and only brought out for holiday meals. Many decades later I learned that it is ‘only’ silver plate but you know, it doesn’t suffer by comparison with the sterling set that I also now own. And if you’ve seen the prices that the antique dealers get for Victorian “Sheffield plate” you’d be amazed. 🙂

    • Yep, silver plate does. I began collecting silver plate many years ago without knowing too much about it only that it tarnishes badly if not taken care of. And it depends what antique store you shop at. Some dealers will have silver plate priced at a dollar. Sometimes though, I’ve seen silver plate tea pots, water pitchers and silverware go for more than $45. Personally, I feel its only worth as much as your willing to pay for it. And if you try to re-sell it online it might be of use to someone who will then melt it down, destroy the silverware and make spoon rings, bracelets and completely destroy any collector value in it. And yep, I have seen Sheffield plate. Like I say, “One piece at a time,” and eventually you’ll have a beautiful mismatched set of silver plate. 🙂

  • Silver is so under rated…one day it’s gunna be really big bucks… I remember when I refined gold and silver in early 2000 silver went threw the roof at about 40 an ounce…..
    GoldCoinNY.com save your silver and pile it high. Just as good as gold.

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