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Silver Cutlery

Buying Antique Silver Cutlery

If you want a set for that special occasion, would like to give someone a gift or you’d like to develop your collection of antique silver, cutlery is a great place to start. Here we look at why it’s such a great investment and can be perfect for those memorable moments.

A Quick History of Silver Cutlery

Original cutlery was made from either steel or pewter but around the late 17th and 18th centuries, silver became a more ostentatious replacement for wealthy families. Even having a cutlery set at home, kept safely in a drawer is also a relatively recent thing – most people tended to carry their utensils around with them. It wasn’t until we started having more formal dinners and bigger households that things changed.

The types of utensils used in sets increased over the 19th century when we begin to see items such as specialist pickle and fish forks, for example. Today’s modern silver cutlery sets can have 6 or 7 items for sittings from soup spoons to cheese knives.

Reasons to Buy Antique Silver Cutlery

  • It looks great and has a functional purpose. If you have that special occasion coming up, silver cutlery can certainly add a level of elegance and panache.
  • Sterling silver with a hallmark is likely to appreciate over time, not only as an antique with its intrinsic historic value but for newer sets.
  • Antique silver cutlery gives you a piece of history and some of the hallmarks for the best designers and manufacturers are highly sought after. A rare set of sliver spoons that dated back to the period of Elizabeth I was expected to fetch between £20,000 and £30,000 recently in Devon.

Sterling Silver vs Silver Plate

If you are looking for value and something that is going to appreciate over the years, then sterling silver is the option to go for. Silverplate means that the silver has been laid over a more common base metal, in this case, most often steel.

Whether you choose a brand-new service or you want to buy one with a bit of history behind it, the good news is that sterling silver cutlery is likely to appreciate over the years. Sterling silver cutlery will have a hallmark that shows you that the knife or fork is at least 92.5% pure. The cutting edge of a knife, however, will most likely have a steel edge that makes it easier for cutting and more durable.

Any true hallmark will have several stamps. The first recognises your cutlery as being silver and in most cases, this is a lion (in Scotland it’s a thistle). Then there will be a location or town mark. For example, if the cutlery was made in London it will have a panther’s face.

Next you will see a mark for the date, usually a letter relating to a particular period. Finally, there will be a maker’s mark identifying who produced the cutlery.

Buying Sets vs Pieces

While a cutlery set or individual piece can be decorative, most people invest in this type of antique silver because they want to use it.

Silver cutlery is ideal for special occasions. It’s been used for everything from stunning banquets to Christmas dinners and birthday and wedding celebrations. Getting out the silver used to be a portent for any momentous celebration, whether you have a new sterling silver set or an antique one that has been handed down through the family.

If you are buying a set of silver cutlery, you’ll need to think about how many place settings you are likely to need. Most modern sets have around 6 or 7 items per set – a fork and knife for starters and one for the main course, soup spoon, dessert spoon, teaspoon as well as additional options such as a fish knife.

The next thing to consider is the design. These can vary from very ornate to extremely simple and a lot will depend on your preferences. Newer silver cutlery sets tend to be less ornate while older ones will have a lot of flourishes and more intricate designs.

The problem with more ornate sets is that it can be difficult to find replacements or add to your collection later on. Designs that are more readily available than others include the Kings Pattern, Fiddle Pattern and Old English Pattern.

Even individual pieces of silver can add a new dimension to your dining table. You might, for instance, want to consider an ornate soup ladle or a silver slice for that special wedding.

Antique Silver Cutlery: Weight

While you might be buying silver cutlery for its aesthetic and historic appeal, you should also consider the value of the metal itself. Essentially, the heavier a fork or knife is, the more expensive it is likely to be in addition to its antique value. Table forks can, for example, vary from about 50g to several hundred.

What Affects the Value of Silver Cutlery?

Several things affect the value of a set of antique cutlery. The first is the provenance – who it was made by and who owned it previously. The design can also make a difference. Rarer designs such as Grand Baroque and Repousse are highly sought after and very valuable.

The other thing that affects value is condition. Silver is a relatively soft metal and if the cutlery set has been used a lot you can find damage to areas like the fork tines.

Caring for Antique Silver Cutlery

Looking after your silver cutlery, whether it’s new or antique is important.

  • You shouldn’t use abrasive scourers to clean your cutlery and it’s always best to do a handwash rather than use a machine.
  • Don’t leave silver cutlery to soak in water and dry as soon as it has been washed.
  • Using your cutlery more often means that it is less likely to tarnish.
  • Make sure that you store your silver cutlery in a box that has been designed for it. If you are storing it in a drawer, use a tarnish-resistant flannel to keep it safe.

Check out our selection of restored and nearly new silver cutlery at Edinburgh Silver today.

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