How to tell if silver is sterling or plate by the back stamp or marks?

You just inherited your beloved grandmother’s silver collection. How do you tell if it is sterling silver or silver plate?

1.) Look at the back stamp. The writing can be very small. You may need magnifying glass or a jeweler’s loop. Sometimes squinting helps. If it is marked as sterling, then you have solid sterling silver, which is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper or brass.

2.) How to calculate the intrinsic value or silver content in silverware?
To calculate the intrinsic or value of silver in objects marked sterling, multiply the weight in grams by the spot price of silver, eg. $16/troy oz and multiply this by 0.0297. For example, in a 65g table spoon, the value of silver is 65g x $16 x 0.0297 = $30.89. Any piece with a hollow handle must not be included in this calculation. The handle is filled with pitch -a solid tar byproduct from the petroleum industry, plaster, concrete or lead. Also, the blade is composed of steel which has virtually no intrinsic value. An estimate of the sterling silver content of hollow handled pieces is: Dinner knives 15-20g, luncheon knives 10-15g and butter spreaders 7-15g.

Silver Plate
Silver plate is a process of electrochemically depositing a thin layer of pure silver on a base metal such as copper, nickel or steel. This was first done by the Italian chemist Luigi V. Brugnatelli in 1805. Commercial silver-plating was patented by the British brothers George and Henry Elkington in 1840 and then spread around the world. Silver plated articles have very little intrinsic value. If the back stamp contains any of the following words, then it is likely silver plate.

  • A1
  • AA
  • Coin Plate
  • Deepsilver or Deep Silver
  • Double or Double Plate
  • Electroplate
  • EP
  • EPC
  • EPBM
  • EPNS
  • EPWM
  • Extra Coin Plate
  • Extra Plate
  • Plate or Plated
  • Plaque
  • Quadruple or Quadruple Plate
  • Reinforced Plate
  • Silver Plate or Silverplate
  • Silver Soldered
  • Sterling Inlaid
  • Sterling Plate
  • Triple or Triple Plate
  • XII
  • XS

White Metal Marks
White metal contains no silver. It was developed as an inexpensive silver and silver plate substitute with the advantage that it does not tarnish. Usually the alloy consists of 60% copper, 20% zinc and 20% nickel. Nickel silver is used as the base metal in higher quality silver plated flatware. The advantage is that the metal is harder, less mailable and wear spots are not as noticeable as on brass or copper. Typical white metal marks are as follows:

  • Alpaca or Alpacca Silver
  • Aluminum Silver
  • Austrian Silver
  • Brazil or Brazilian Silver
  • Bristol Silver
  • Burmaroid Silver
  • England Silver
  • German Silver
  • Indian Silver
  • Japanese Silver
  • Laxey Silver
  • Mexican Silver
  • Nevada Silver
  • Nickel Silver
  • Paktong
  • Pearl Silver
  • Potosi Silver
  • Solid G Silver (aka German Silver)
  • Sonora Silver
  • Tyrol Silver
  • Venetian Silver
  • Yukon Silver

If your piece of flatware does not contain the word sterling or the above identifiable silver plate marks, we recommend testing it. This is exactly the focus of our next article: How to test your silverware to determine whether it is sterling silver or silver plate. Stay tuned.

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Spoons and Forks,
The Silverware Guy

7 thoughts on “How to tell if silver is sterling or plate by the back stamp or marks?

  1. Maureen Newell

    Please explain what “par plate’ is. I cannot find any definite description of what it actually is.
    Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Ken

    Hi Jay. Got a couple sets of handed down flatware. Many varied pieces also, servers, plates, candle snuffers, all very cool! Some say H&T, or Fairfield, and others, but mostly “Rogers AA” (anchor on either side of Rogers) then ” I S” stamp. Too many varieties to tell you about! Thanks for the education on deciphering and cleaning silver. ;} Ken

    Reply

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