Blog - copper on silver

The Novice’s Guide to Collecting Silver vs Silver Plate

Posted by

A Collection of Vintage Silver and Silver Plated Pieces

A Collection of Vintage Silver and Silver Plated Pieces

Whether you collect silver or silver plate is a very personal choice and there are merits to both types of wares. Here are four points to consider when starting to collect.

  • What is the difference between silver and silver plate?
    • Silverware is the term used to describe items of cutlery, dinning ware, and décor pieces made from solid silver.
      • In North America, we tend to use the British sterling silver standard for such items. 
      • Sterling silver is made with 92.5% pure silver alloyed with 7.5% copper to give it strength. 
    • A silver plated item is manufactured from a base metal such as copper, brass or nickel silver, onto which a layer of silver is then applied.
      • The most common form of plate we see in Canada is electorplating. 
      • The article to be electroplated is placed in a solution of potassium cyanide with a negative pole attached to it. 
      • The positive pole is then attached to a 100% pure silver sheet and a low voltage current is passed through the solution causing the silver sheet, acting as a cathode, to produce silver ions which are deposited onto the article.

A Collection of Vintage Silver and Silver Plated Pieces

A Collection of Vintage Silver and Silver Plated Pieces

  • Understand what the marks or stamps mean?
    • Generally silver and silver plated pieces are stamped with a number of marks, familiarise yourself with these marks.
    • The British developed a great system to control the quality of production of silver items.
      • Each item had to be sent to an assay office to ensure that the piece was indeed sterling.
      • As such each piece is stamped with a hallmark. 
      • Hallmarking is an indepth field in its own right and if you would like to know more, please contact us.

An Explanation of a British Silver Hallmark.

An Explanation of a British Silver Hallmark.

  • In Canada Birks and Sons became one of the largest manufacturers of silver during the 20th century.  
    • Having purchased their first manufacturing company in 1897. 
    • In 1925 Birks managed to obtain permission from the London assay office to add a date stamp to correspond to the London, England, cycle date stamp.
  • In the 1930’s the Canadian National Mark was added, a lion’s head inside the letter C. 

A Stamp of the Canadian National Mark and an Example of a Sterling Stamp

A Stamp of the Canadian National Mark and an Example of a Sterling Stamp

  • Generally in North America all pieces that are sterling silver are stamped sterling. 
  • Plated pieces also have a variety of marks on them, but they will not be stamped sterling. 
    • They could be stamped EPNS, which is electorplating on nickel silver or E.P. on copper, electroplating on copper. 

Examples of Silver Plate Marks

Examples of Silver Plate Marks

  • Should you collect silver or plate?
    • The short answer to this question, it depends on your personal preference.
      • Are you collecting for investment purposes?
      • Are you collecting in a particular sphere?
        • For example my husband and I enjoy entertaining, so we are always looking for items that we know we will enjoy at our dinner table.
      • Determine your budget.
        • If you examine two pieces, one is silver and one silver plate and they are of similar age and style, the silver piece will be more expensive and valuable.
    • However plated items from the Victorian era are highly collectable and of course other types of metal ware Britannia metal, British Plate and Close Plate have also become highly collectable.
    • Remember electroplating was perfected as early as 1842 by Elkington & co. of Birmingham.
      • So you can find interesting silver plated items that are over 100 years old. 

A Collection of Vintage Silver and Silver Plated Pieces

A Collection of Vintage Silver and Silver Plated Pieces

  • How do I start my collection?
    • Once you have answered the questions in the section above, scour the markets and talk to the dealers.
    • Dealers love what they do and are generally willing to share their knowledge about a piece you are interested in.
    • Build up a relationship with dealers you trust and have a rapport with.
    • Once you have acquired some knowledge you can engage with confidence with knowledgeable dealers. 

At La Vogue Vintage we take great pride in building relationships with collectors and helping them build their knowledge base. If you already have a few pieces in your collection and would like further information about them, why not make an appointment to chat to Corinne, Geoff or Erica to find out more. Join us for a cup of something warm at one of our two office in the NW or SW. Click here to make an appointment


  • 1