How to Identify Antique Silver Flatware

old silver fork and spoon image by Paweł Burgiel from Fotolia.com

Things You'll Need

  • Magnifying glass or loupe
  • Guide to silver flatware patterns and hallmarks

Silver flatware refers to silver forks and spoons of all sizes, including tablespoons, dessert spoons, table forks, dessert forks, sauce ladles, soup ladles, basting spoons and teaspoons. The common term "cutlery" officially refers to knives -- not spoons and forks. Look for several main details to identify an antique silver flatware object. Antique generally refers to items that are over 100 years old.

Pick up the item and search for a mark or small engraved picture. It should be on the reverse of the stem. On 18th Century flatware it is often marked nearer the bowl of the spoon or curve of the fork. This is known as the "hallmark."

Look at the mark closely using a magnifying glass or a jeweler's loupe.

Check for the mark of a lion looking to the left. This is the mark of English silver and the hallmark is known as the Lion Passant. Search for a date letter, which is a letter in a shield-shape that indicates the age of the piece. Refer to an antique silver flatware guide to find out which date the letter represents.

Consult the 925-1000.com website or a guide to American silver flatware. Compare your item's hallmark with the marks listed. Tiffany hallmarks, for example, differ according to the era. The stem pattern may also vary.

Note the decoration and the tip of the spoon bowl or fork tines. If they are rubbed or worn, this is often an indication that the item is an antique.

Search for a monogram or family crest. It was common practice in English Georgian and Victorian eras to engrave flatware with these identifying logos.

Look at the pattern on the top of the item's stem. If it's in an art deco or modernist style with angular geometric lines, the flatware is probably not antique.

Tips

  • Flatware items marked "EPBN" or "EPNS" are silver-plate, not solid silver.

Warnings

  • Remember that some forgeries are very accurate. Always get a professional opinion for expensive pieces.

    Avoid anything that's too brightly polished and items without hallmarks.

References

About the Author

Based near London, U.K., Peter Mitchell has been a journalist and copywriter for over eight years. Credits include stories for "The Guardian" and the BBC. Mitchell is an experienced player and coach for basketball and soccer teams, and has written articles on nutrition, health and fitness. He has a First Class Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) from Bristol University.

Photo Credits

  • old silver fork and spoon image by PaweÅ‚ Burgiel from Fotolia.com