How To Buy Sterling Silver**

Whether you're buying sterling silver jewelry, serving pieces, or flatware for personal use or to sell as scrap - be aware of what you're buying.

Before making any purchases you should know the different marks used to designate sterling. The obvious being the word sterling imprinted on the item. The not quite so obvious being numeric marks such as 999, 970, 925, 900, and the figure of a lion (English mark). You may also find items marked 800 - while not sterling these items are 800/1000 parts silver. (For more information on silver marks here are some books on Sterling Silver Marks available from Amazon.)

Most hollowware items will be marked 'weighted' in addition to sterling. This indicates that the base is not solid sterling but rather has been filled with either a 'resin' material or something similar to Plaster of Paris. Not only does the weighted base make the piece more stable for use, but also reduces the amount of sterling needed for manufacturing. For these items you will find the filled base has been sealed by using a thin cover of sterling.

Assoted weightd sterling silver items

The most typical types of weighted sterling items are:
  • Candlesticks
  • Candelabra
  • Salt and pepper shakers
  • Sugar and creamers
  • Compotes
  • Cake stands
  • Anything with a large base

Flatware is a little different. Spoons and forks are all sterling, while knives and serving pieces - particularly those with larger handles - have the handles filled much like the weighted pieces with only a veneer of sterling over the base filler. If you are buying items for personal use this is of little importance, however, if you are buying sterling for scrap this is very important. When buying knives or serving pieces, you do not want to pay full value for items that are not solid sterling.

If buying sterling jewelry for scrap, one will need to take into consideration the implied value for artistic design and gemstones, if present. All sterling jewelry will be marked, so if there is no mark, either sterling or one of the numbers above, i.e., 925 - the item is most like plated or not silver at all.

There are other marks, ie, EPNS, Alpaca, German silver that bear knowing. For information on these visit Not All Silver is Sterling.

The best and safest way to know if you have sterling is to test it. A good, inexpensive kit for testing silver can be found at Amazon .

View our Gallery of Sterling Pictures to get an idea of marks, see how weighted items are constructed, etc.

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