So you’ve got some silverware or some old jewelry and you want to figure out whether or not it’s real silver – here’s how: look on the bottom.
Actually, it’s not always on the bottom, sometimes it’s on the side…sometimes it’s on the “back.” But on a pitcher, a cup, a tea kettle or a silver cup, it’s on the bottom – but it’s almost always marked…
So you’re looking for the numbers – 925 – because sterling silver is made of mostly silver and some copper. But it’s 92.5% silver, just not ALL silver. And since it’s 92.5% – that’s why you look for the numbers 925.
Most of the time, you’ll see the numbers 925 on jewelry – necklaces, rings, earrings, etc…but it’s not universal. The main reason the 925 is used on jewelry is the limited space. Writing out the word “sterling” isn’t always possible on the tiny wire that earrings are made of…so instead, they’ll put 925. It just saves space.
On the other hand, on a fork or a spoon (also called flatware) there’s plenty of room to write out the word “sterling.” So it’s usually written on the back of the fork, along the spine. So it you hold the fork like you’re eating with it and then just roll it over you’ll see the word “Sterling.”
Now don’t confuse sterling with the words “silver”, “community silver”, “silver company” or anything else – these are NOT real sterling silver. If it doesn’t say “sterling”, it’s not sterling silver. There are almost no exceptions.
We see a lot of NOT sterling. Many people WANT their silver to be real, and they usually insist that it IS real and they KNOW it. But it’s not. If it doesn’t have the word “sterling” it’s not sterling silver.
Unless your silverware is more than 100 years old, it’ll have the word sterling on it. If it’s British, Colombian, European or Middle Eastern – maybe not. Then of course there are exceptions. Items not manufactured in the US may not have the word “sterling.” But most everything else will.
So save yourself a little bit of trouble and a little time and look for the word. If it’s there, a setting of silverware can be worth $40-$50 and an entire set is $500-$700.
Silver flatware is quite valuable as is holloware which describes teapots, kettles, large bowls and large vases and urns. They’re called hollow ware because they’re usually constructed of two sheets of silver with a space in between to save weight.
If you’ve got hollowware pieces, they can be quite valuable, but again – look for the word sterling or the numbers 925. It’s worth your time and it could make you some money.