Selling guides, Tips and tricks

Finding the Value of Silver

silver necklace with sterling silver clasp
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It can be hard to know where to start when trying to work out the value of your silver collection, especially if you’ve had it a long time or inherited it from a relative. Regardless of the type of silver you own, whether that’s cutlery, jewellery or miscellaneous items, this guide can help you to get a better idea of how much your collection could sell for.

Is Silver Worth Anything?

The value of silver depends on a number of different factors, including its purity and how well it’s been looked after, but as a precious metal, most silver is worth something and can be sold even for smaller amounts of money. Some silver is worth a considerable amount of money, especially if it’s antique or part of a valuable collection of items. The price of silver will fluctuate depending on the current market, so your silver could be worth more or less depending on the current industry climate.

What’s the Difference Between Sterling Silver and Silverplate?

There are two main types of silver you’re likely to come across: sterling silver and silverplate. But what exactly is the difference between them and how could they affect how much your silver is worth?

·        Sterling silver: For an item to be classed as sterling silver (also known as solid silver), it needs to be made of at least 92.5% pure silver. A lot of sterling silver is mixed with small amounts of copper - this helps it last longer as pure silver is a soft metal.

·        Silverplate: When items are classed as silverplate, they are usually made from a different base metal and only have a thin layer of silver on top. The finish on silverplate is more likely to wear away or fade in time than sterling silver.

In general, sterling silver items will be worth more than silverplate, as their silver content is much higher. Silverplate isn’t worth very much to silver collectors, as the amount of silver it contains is often very small and can’t even be melted down. However, silverplate items can still be worth selling if the item itself may have value to someone e.g. jewellery.

How to Identify Your Silver

If you’re not sure whether the silver you have is real silver, there are a few easy ways to check at home. This can help you get a better idea of how much your collection could be worth before selling it.

Test with a magnet - Silver is not magnetic, so an easy way to test whether items in your collection are made of silver is to put them next to a magnet. For best results, you’ll need a more powerful magnet, like an earth magnet, rather than one you might stick to your fridge. If the item you’re testing sticks to the magnet, it’s likely made mostly from another type of metal and may only contain small amounts of silver. Silver plated items will usually stick to a strong magnet, as the layer of silver is very thin and the magnet attracts the base metal underneath.

You may also notice that parts of your item are magnetic while other areas aren’t. For example, some jewellery will have clasps or pendants made out of another type of metal to make them stronger, but the bulk of the piece may still be sterling silver.

Rub with a cloth - If your silver collection is tarnished, you can test its authenticity by rubbing it with a white cloth. Tarnished silver should rub off on the cloth and leave grey and black marks behind. If you polish it for a longer period of time, your silver should regain its original shiny finish. While fake silver and silverplate will also dull over time and appear less shiny, rubbing it usually won’t improve its appearance. This is because it’s likely that the silvery finish will have worn away, revealing the base metal underneath.

Check the smell - Pure silver shouldn’t have a strong metallic smell, so if your items do smell like copper, brass or iron, chances are they’re not pure silver. Make sure that your silver is clean and hasn’t been poorly stored when smelling it, as damp, musty boxes or other residues could change its scent.

Look for hallmarks - Real silver almost always has one or more hallmarks (also known as silver marks) that show how pure it is or when it was manufactured. Hallmarks are one of the easiest ways to find out if your items are truly silver. There are lots of different types of hallmarks, but one of the most common is the word sterling, which indicates that your items are indeed made from sterling silver. Silver plated items might not have any hallmarks, but you may see the word silverplate, which can help you to identify it.

Silver Hallmarks Explained

British silverware and other solid silver items should all have hallmarks if they were made after 1700. If you’ve noticed a hallmark on your silver flatware or jewellery, the good news is that your items are most likely made from real silver. However, unless your silver has the words ‘sterling’ or ‘sterling silver’ written on it, it might be difficult to know exactly what your hallmark means. Common hallmarks that mean that your item is sterling silver include:

·        Sterling/Sterling silver

·        92.5% pure, 925 or 925/1000

·        A lion, thistle or crowned harp

If your silver has no hallmarks, it may mean that it’s actually silverplate or made from another metal entirely. However, sometimes silverplate will have hallmarks, which include:

·        Silverplate

·        EP/BP

·        EPBM/EPNS

The letters above indicate that the silver has been electro-plated, which is the process of adding a thin layer of silver over another base metal.

How Much is Silver Worth?

While knowing whether your items are solid silver or simply silver plated will help you to figure out how much they’re worth, there are other factors that can affect their value as well.

Condition - The overall condition of your silver will affect how much it’s worth, with well-looked-after items fetching higher prices than broken silver. However, even broken silver items can still be sold for a considerable amount, so don’t write them off completely. Before examining the condition your silver is in, spend some time polishing your items with a soft cloth to remove any tarnish. This will help you to see whether your silver is marked or dented in places.

You should also look at the condition of any patterns on your silver. It’s possible for patterns to fade over time with repeated polishing, which may make some items less valuable. Items that have been monogrammed may also not sell for quite as much, as they link the pieces to their previous owners. However, it’s often not worth removing monograms, as there will be a mark left behind afterwards which can also impact value.

Melt value - The melt value of silver is how much your silver is worth if it’s melted down. This is why many silver items that are broken, tarnished or part of incomplete sets can still be sold for higher amounts of money as scrap silver.

Melt value can change depending on the market value of silver, so it’s always worth paying attention to, as even if you’re selling antique silver that won’t be melted, it will still be worth more money when its melt value is high.

Complete sets and collectables - Silver is often more valuable if you have a complete set of items, or your item is particularly rare or collectable. For example, having a full set of antique silverware will typically sell for more than the odd silver spoon or plate from different collections. This means that if you have lots of silver stored away in the attic, it can be a good idea to sort through your whole collection before selling anything to make sure you haven’t missed something that should be part of a set.

Is it Worth Selling Your Silver?

If you have silver that you don’t want or need, it can definitely be worth selling it, especially if you want to reduce clutter and earn some extra money at the same time. All silver has some value, even silverplate, so it’s well worth selling it on rather than donating it or simply throwing it away. 

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