Your grandmother's silverware has sentimental value, but the monetary value of the sterling silver may increase your appreciation if you receive it as a gift or inheritance. The silver content of the set determines the worth for insurance coverage, but some designs appreciate more than the silver scrap value. A professional appraisal involves taking your sterling to a certified appraiser with formal recognition from national and international associations, including the Certified Appraisal Guild of America (CAGA) and the International Society of Appraisers. Replicating the steps professional appraisers use, however, allows you to estimate the value of your sterling without paying appraisal fees.
Research the history of your sterling silverware set by talking to family members or the silver seller for any details about the sterling pieces. This helps determine the age of the silver. Extremely old silver sets may be silver but fail to have any content markings.
Locate the sterling mark or hallmarks on the silverware pieces. Examine the back of the silver for symbols and words indicating sterling. Typical markings include, "sterling," "925," "coin," "pure coin" and "925/1000."
Examine your silver pieces for maker or manufacturing marks. Collectors look for manufacturers or specific designers, such as Georg Jensen, and this increases the collectible value of your silverware.
Make a copy of the silver pattern on paper to use in your research to determine the collectible value of your pieces or take and develop a photo of the pattern.
Research the pattern using your pattern copy or photograph and sterling silverware research books, including "An Illustrated Dictionary of Silverware: 2373 Entries Relating to British and North American Wares, Decorative Techniques and Styles, and Leading Designers and Markers, Principally from c.1500 to the Present" by Harold Newman, "Warman's Sterling Silver Flatware: Values and Identification Guide" by Mark F. Moran and "1830's - 1990's American Sterling Silver Flatware: A Collector's Identification and Value Guide" edited by Maryanne Dolan.
Research your pattern using Internet websites devoted to sterling silverware to see the range of pricing for your pattern and silverware pieces. Uncommon pieces, such as oyster forks, have greater value than more common silverware pieces, such as dinner forks.
Research your silverware pattern using online matching services, such as Replacements Ltd. The companies offering silver pieces at these sites use retail prices for single item purchases, generally more than the price for silverware sets.
Find the price of an ounce of silver on the trading market by looking at Monex and Kitco. Prices provide the scrap or melt value of your silver pieces, and prices fluctuate due to market sales.
Divide your sterling silverware pieces according to silver value. Place items marked in piles according to the mark on the pieces. Place those marked "sterling" in one group and other hallmarks in separate piles.
Weigh your silver to estimate the total weight using a jeweler scale. Multiply this number by the price of silver to determine the scrap price for your sterling silverware.
- PBS: Appraisal Georg Jensen Sterling Flatware, ca. 1930
- An Illustrated Dictionary of Silverware: 2373 Entries Relating to British and North American Wares, Decorative Techniques and Styles, and Leading Designers and Markers, Principally from c.1500 to the Present; Harold Newman
- Warman's Sterling Silver Flatware: Values and Identification Guide; Mark F. Moran
- 1830's - 1990's American Sterling Silver Flatware: A Collector's Identification and Value Guide; Maryanne Dolan, et al.
- Replacements Ltd.: Discontinued and Active Silver Matching Service
- Monex Precious Metals: Live Current Prices
- Kitco: Live Silver Prices
- The silver metal market follows other market trends with dips and price increases. There's no guarantee sterling silverware worth one price today will retain that price in the future as the silver market fluctuates. The same is true with the volatile collectible silverware market.
Lee Grayson has worked as a freelance writer since 2000. Her articles have appeared in publications for Oxford and Harvard University presses and research publishers, including Facts On File and ABC-CLIO. Grayson holds certificates from the University of California campuses at Irvine and San Diego.