It was once quite fashionable to display a silver tea and coffee service, a pair of candelabra, or a nice center bowl in your home. Just a few decades ago, fine dining was still a frequent occurrence and the appearance of a fine set of sterling flatware at the dinner table along with a set of Wedgwood china and some Baccarat stemware really set the tone of elegance, and added to the overall experience.
On today’s dinner table, more often than not we use silver plated or stainless steel flatware, and dishes and glasses compliments of Bed, Bath, and Beyond, Crate and Barrel, or Pottery Barn. Personally, I prefer stainless steel for everyday use and silver plate for more formal use. For some, daily dinnerware consists of paper plates and plastic utensils.
Yet many, many people still own sterling silver—whether it came to them through inheritance, as a personal purchase, or as a wedding gift. Many wonder about the value of silver, and what their pieces might be worth.
Today, the antiques market is flooded with people finding that their grown children don’t want or will never use their silver and other fine dinnerware. Dishwashers and microwaves are here to stay. Who has the time any more to wash dishes and crystal by hand?
While it may be challenging today to find a buyer for your grandmother’s fine china dinner service, sterling silver has never been easier to sell. The recent rise in the value of silver as a commodity has led to high melt values and thus high demand for anything made of silver.
I’m not talking about silver pieces by makers at the high end of the market, including Tiffany, Gorham, Dominick and Haff, George Jensen, and Kirk. These high end pieces still command prices much higher than their melt values. However, silver produced by more moderate manufacturers such as Towle, International, Durgin, and Whiting is seeing new interest, mainly due to the rise in spot silver prices.
My fear is that a lot of this silver will see its way to the smelter, with no merit given for its intrinsic historical or artistic value. When recognized by a silver appraiser, this additional sentimental value could attract buyers willing to pay much more than the price quoted by a smelter.
I hate to see fine silver disappear forever without any consideration for its history or quality. If we all rushed out to melt our antique silver for a sum, what would be left for future generations to appreciate?
If you’re interested in finding out more about the value of your fine silver, please send images and a description using our free online auction evaluation form. I’d be happy to take a look.