Why buy vintage sterling silver?

Invest in the craftsmanship and legacy of authentic vintage and antique sterling silverware.

We all know that silver has been regarded as a precious monetary metal throughout 6,000 years of human history. As with other precious metals, it has been used as a preservation of wealth against inflation and money printing. But what many people today have forgotten, is that silver was also prized for its antimicrobial properties, even being used as a disinfectant prior to the invention of penicillin- certain poisons caused silver to discolour and turn black. And it is for this reason, as well as for its beauty, luxury, and durability that silver was used as flatware and tableware for centuries.

Silverware continues to hold its intrinsic value even today, especially given the rise in demand for silver. However, the rise in silver prices and labour costs has made it prohibitively expensive to purchase brand new silverware. And that is why investing in second-hand vintage (50 years and older) and antique (100 years and older) silverware is a great investment – their price will only appreciate over time, while their quality and craftsmanship remain timeless.

What is sterling silver?

Sterling silver, or 925 silver, refers to silver alloys that contain a purity of 92.5% silver content, combined with another metal (typically copper for its strength). It is thanks to this special alloy, that sterling silver is more durable than pure silver. Because of their prestige and durability, sterling silver has been used since the 12th century by royalty and the wealthy. Sterling silver products can range from tableware and flatware to pots, walking sticks handles, flower vases, chalices, necklaces and bracelets, candelabras, stationery items, and toys just to name a few!

Naturally, sterling silver is less expensive than pure 99.9% silver. However, the value of some sterling silver pieces can cost even more than their original price selling price, simply because they are now seen as luxury/collectible items with historical and artistic significance. Typically, antique silver is worth more than vintage silver.


Tea Cup and Saucer – François Nicoud 1875 / 1880 Paris – France – Late 19th century

How do I tell if my sterling silver piece is authentic?

Authentic antique sterling silver pieces will be stamped with a hallmark. This stamp is usually tiny and on the bottom or side of the piece, with the words “Sterling Silver” or numbers like “925” describing its purity of 92.5% silver content. One might need to use a magnifying glass to examine these hallmarks closely. Hallmark identification, also known as known as the assayer’s/jeweller’s mark, will help answer the “where, what, when and who” of the item, as well as indicate the silver content of the piece. A well known example of this is the Lion Passant – there are tables one can refer to that allow experts to identify the assay (metal content), place of manufacture, and date of the piece. You should be suspicious of any antique sterling silver piece that claims to be authentic but lacks a hallmark due to the vigorous laws in place during that era to prevent fakes. Corrosion marks seen around hallmarks are telltale signs that the article is fake and likely plated.

Here are a few more ways you can tell that your sterling silver piece is authentic:
  • It will not have a “metallic” smell (like the coins in your wallet) – sterling silver is odourless.
  • Sterling silver is very durable due to the high percentage of silver content and does not corrode easily. However it is not immune to tarnishing and will develop a classic dark patina. If a green patina develops, this would mean that it is likely plated or not pure sterling silver.
  • It should not corrode. If your pieces is plated, the plating will erode exposing the underlying metal to corrosion.
  • When wiping sterling silver with a soft cloth or silver polishing cloth, black marks will be left on the cloth from oxidisation.
  • Pure silver and sterling silver is only very slightly magnetic. Test the piece at various points with a strong ( ideally Neodymium) magnet. If a metallic pull can be felt, it is not pure silver or sterling silver.
  • Learn to recognise the colour and finish of sterling silver – polished sterling has a characteristic brilliant yet soft white that is different from the dull metallic shine of stainless steel. Unpolished vintage and antique silver will have a characteristic yellowish white with areas of dark patina in the groves of the piece. The more genuine sterling pieces you come across and observe, the more you will be able to recognise its distinct colour and finish!

Examples of hallmarks on sterling silver

How do I care for my sterling silver pieces?

Even though sterling silver is durable and resistant to corrosion, proper care will help maintain it’s luxurious condition, thus preserving its value.

  • Store them in a cool, dry place, and do not use harsh cleaning products to clean them.
  • Do not put pure sterling silverware in the dishwasher. Plated flatware and tableware is more durable however, and can be put through the dishwasher.
  • Remove any silver jewellery before taking a shower or going for a swim.
  • Keep individual pieces separated from each other in storage, to prevent them from scratching one another.
  • Use a soft (preferably microfibre) cloth to wipe off any finger prints, dust and moisture. It is not necessary or recommended to remove all patina especially from grooves and features, as some amount of patina is considered visually pleasing to collectors. Stubborn oxidation stains can be removed using dedicated silver polishing cloths.
  • Check out our bonus care tip below:

Bonus CARE tip

An eco-friendly, easy and effective way to clean multiple silver products at once:

You’ll need: a large plastic container, boiling water, a couple tablespoons of baking soda and kosher salt, and aluminium foil.

  1. Place your silver pieces into a large plastic container
  2. Line the container with aluminium foil, shiny side up
  3. Carefully place your silver pieces in the container
  4. Boil enough water to cover the silver pieces
  5. Submerge the silver pieces in boiling water
  6. Add baking soda and kosher salt to the water
  7. Let the silver sit in the water for a few minutes
  8. Carefully remove the silver and wipe dry with a soft cloth

How this works is, the sulphur atoms that make up the silver tarnish are removed and transferred to the aluminium foil via the baking soda/salt solution, forming aluminium sulphide and thus leaving your silver shining!

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