A Guide To Antique Silver Flatware

No matter whether you call it flatware, cutlery, or silverware, one thing we can agree on is that it’s all gorgeous. No?  If you are starting an antique flatware collection {or are already in the deep end with your antique silver obsession} here is a small guide to antique silver flatware.

There are so many interesting and fun pieces to collect!  Antique silver is never boring. Each has it’s own job to do….but is very happy to be used in multiple ways these days!


Every single piece of “silver” flatware contains some percentage of silver. Sterling, coin silver, silver plated and hotel silver…all of them have some silver.


STERLING: Sterling pieces are required to be at least 92.5% silver and are easy to recognize by their marking of 925 or higher or the word “sterling” stamped into the piece.

COIN SILVER: The oldest kind of American silver, coin silver should be at least 90% silver.  American colonist melted down European coins to re-cast into serving pieces and flatware, because they did not want to use British imported silver. Coin silver pieces are typically heavier than sterling, and often have the word “coin” stamped on the back or side.

HOTEL SILVER: Meant to endure service in a hotel or restaurant, hotel silver is made by layering a thick coat of silver over copper or brass. Hotel silver usually has some pitting from use, and a slightly mat appearance that sterling, coin or plated silver.

SILVER PLATE:  Made by an electroplating process developed in the 19th century, silver plated flatware has all the beauty of sterling, but at a much more attractive price point. The base is usually nickel, then plated with a thin layer of pure silver.  Knives made before the 1920’s will have a plated blade, also. After that date, the blade will be stainless steel, which keeps the blade from rusting.

I was thrilled to be quoted in this month’s Southern Lady magazine about Silver Bride’s Baskets. I hope you will enjoy the article if you subscribe to Southern Lady,  I can’t wait to see the issue!


SHOP SILVER- Begin your antique silver collection>


Shop for the best in French Antiques, furniture with the patina of age, vintage accessories to delight you and your family & friends, and French Country utilitarian pieces. Treasures that make your home fresh, beautiful, inspirational and uniquely yours. Visit our shop FrenchGardenHouse.com

21 thoughts on “A Guide To Antique Silver Flatware”

  1. Alice Genzlinger

    Beautiful post Lidy as I love to polish my silver and the silver pieces you show are beautiful. I chose Strasbourg by Gotham when I graduated from high school, many years ago, because I wanted to start my collection. I also have a punch ladle in a beautiful antique pattern but for the life of me I can’t remember the name of the pattern. It has a mark I can’t make out and sterling is on the handle. I remember the name “lily” as being part of the pattern name. I also collect other unusual pieces because I think they are so pretty and I love to use them .

    1. Thank you Alice! I love hearing that you already chose your silver pattern when you graduated high school! A girl after my own heart. Those unusual pieces are so fun, aren’t they? The Victorians literally had a silver serving piece for every single fruit, vegetable, and protein course!

  2. Kathy Hughes

    Gorgeous post! I’ve collected sterling and coin for years, and I’m happy to say my grandchildren are interested in starting to collect, too!

    1. I love hearing that your grandchildren are interested in starting to collect antique sterling and coin! Yay!! I’m always looking for unsual sterling and coin pieces, they have such history.

  3. chardonnaylynn

    LOVE all my silver! My personal favorites are the ones with mother of pearl handles.

    1. Oh, those are mine too! I have to admit that a large portion of those antique forks, spoons and knives end up staying here at FrenchGardenHouse!

  4. Jan Sanders

    Silver brings joy to my heart! There are so many beautiful antique patterns. It’s fun to collect old and new. Mixing the patterns also brings an extra interest to the table. Monograms are even better. Can’t wait to read your article in Southern Lady. It’s truly my favorite magazine. During COVID-19 I check my mail each day hoping my Southern Lady Magazine is there. Thank you for bringing such beauty to your website. Just love it ALL!

    1. Jan, I agree! Like so many silver lovers, I actually enjoy polishing silver – usually while watching a great movie – on a rainy afternoon. I can’t wait to get my Southern Lady either, although I didn’t write the article, the editor quoted me in it! 🙂

  5. Denise Carlson

    Lidy, Congratulations on the article it is a beautiful magazine. This is such a useful post, only problem is remembering all the information! Guess I’ll have to try and remember this and use it for reference. Have a lovely day and stay healthy!
    P.S. I love the photos of all the beautiful silverware!

    1. Thanks so much Denise. : ) When I was a fledgling antique dealer {not telling how long ago that was!!} I wrote some of the information I wanted to remember when shopping on an index card that fit into my little cross body purse. It was really handy!

  6. Candi Duncan

    I too love polishing my silver, I remember where and when I found almost each piece, dinners I’ve used the unusual pieces for serving. The fun conversations we had using the different pieces. I’m on the search for something new always. I think my favorites are pieces I’ve found in France. Individual gigot, or lamb chop holders, that I use for lamb chops and dipped strawberries. Asparagus servers are so beautiful I can’t resist them. Thanks so much for all information you provide.

    1. Oh you sound like a huge silver lover Candi! I too love the more unusual pieces, they are the ones that sell quickest here at our FrenchGardenHouse shop. Using the gigots for lamp chops and strawberries? perfect. Wishing you a joy filled week, friend. xo

  7. These are the most beautiful pieces of silver-plate I’ve seen. Heirloom-not something I’ve come upon, and I’m always looking. I’m sure its out of my budget but one can dream!

    I’ll be looking at your tips on cleaning. I won’t be having company for Easter but I’ll polish enough for my husband and I.

    Stay well, Lidy.

    Jane ?

    1. Thank you Jane. I hope that you are well with your precious family. We won’t be having company for Easter either, but I’ve told my family there is nothing that says we can’t celebrate Easter later. 🙂 Wishing you beautiful and peace filled days, friend. xo

  8. Gloria Pulliam

    Lidy,I knew I was going to buy the citrus spoons as soon as I saw them.
    I love silver spoons and that is a such great set that will add to any thing I serve.
    You have such a wonderful collection of silver, pieces I never see anywhere else!

  9. Gloria, they are beautiful! And I agree, they will add beauty to anything you serve. Thank you so much, I hope they see many beautiful heartwarming gatherings at your home. xo

  10. Candi Duncan

    Lidy, how I use strawberries with the gigots. I’ve found a small bamboo pick/fork at the Asian market that I break off to shorten and then put it in the gigot and tighten it so the prong can go in the strawberry. They make the most beautiful dipped strawberries.

  11. Candi, that is such a clever idea!! Thank you for sharing this with us.

  12. Jason Arnett

    Where should I try to sell all of my antique silver (and, plated silver cutlery) we have forks, spoons, knives, big and small some are stamped “silver plate” some say”silver” and some other’s say “Rogers”, others have a maker’s mark and all are from England and France and Germany I think. It’s all from the 1800’s .

    1. Jason, I suggest you contact a local antique shop and ask them if they know of any dealers that specialize in silver. {Or, you may want to list it yourself on one of the online market places like etsy or ebay.}

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