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I’m sometimes amazed at the number of people who can’t tell the difference between Sterling Silver, Silverplate, and Pewter. There is a major value difference between the three and, if you don’t know how to tell the difference, be prepared to be taken advantage of when you decide to sell.

Here is a very basic description of each:

•  Sterling Silver is always 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% of another metal, usually copper or tin.

•  Silverplate is generally copper, tin or some other non-precious metal coated with a very thin layer of silver. The silver coating is so thin that is has no precious metal value.

•  Pewter It is generally 85–99% tin, mixed with copper, antimony, bismuth, or some other metal. Pewter has no precious metal value.

Here are 20+ ways to tell if it’s “Silverplate.” It will be Silverplate if any of these markings appear anywhere on the flatware or decorative accessories:

•  “Plate” or “Silver Plate” means that it’s Silverplate

•  EP means that it’s “Electro Plated”

•  EPN means that it’s “Electro Plated Nickel”

•  EPNS means that it’s “Electro Plated Nickel Silver”

•  EPCA means that it’s “Electro Plated Copper Alloy”

•  EP ON COPPER means that it’s “Electro Plated on Copper”

•  ESM means that it’s “Electro Plated Silver Mounts”

•  EPWM means that it’s “Electro Plated White Metal”

•  BP is “Britannia Plate”

•  “Sheffield” is Sheffield Plate

•  “Quadruple Plate” is Silverplate that has been dipped four times into a silver solution

•  IS refers to “International Silver” and is almost always Silverplate

•  A “Foil Sticker” is almost always Silverplate (but not 100% of the time)

•  “Community” usually refers to “Community Silverplate”

•  “German Silver” is a white alloy of nickel, zinc, and copper. It is never Sterling.

•  “Nickel Silver” is another term for “German Silver”

•  EPGS means “Electro Plated German Silver”

•  “Silver on Copper” means “Silverplate on Copper”

•  MP means that it’s “Magneto Plate”

•  Silverplate is usually heavier and less flexible than the lighter and more malleable Sterling Silver

•  The presence of a “Company Name” alone does not indicate Sterling or Silverplate

•  The presence of “Hallmarks” alone does not indicate Sterling or Silverplate

•  If in doubt it can always be “Acid Tested” to confirm whether it’s Sterling or Silverplate”.

WHAT’S IT WORTH: We were recently performing a House Contents Appraisal where our client stated that she had two sets of Sterling flatware. Each set was stored in the traditional flatware brown mahogany lift-top box and were in the family for decades. On closer inspection, we had to inform her that neither set was actually Sterling. One was clearly marked “IS” which she assumed referred to Sterling when in fact it referred to “International Silver” Silverplate, and the other was marked “Gorham,” which she also assumed to be Sterling. She received both sets from her long-deceased mother who always said that both sets were Sterling, and for decades she assumed it to be Sterling. If Sterling, each set would have been worth $750-$1,500. As Silverplate, value was around $25 per set.

Mike Ivankovich is an Auctioneer, Appraiser, Home Downsizing Expert, and host of the "What's It Worth? Ask Mike the Appraiser" Radio Show. Now in its 5th year, “What’s It Worth” airs live in the Philadelphia PA area on Friday mornings from 9:30-10:30 AM EST on WBCB 1490 AM, and on the Internet at: www.WBCB1490.com. You can also visit his Radio Show Web Site: www.AskMikeTheAppraiser.com  If your local station doesn’t carry “What’s It Worth” tell them they need to add it to their programing mix. If you know anyone who needs any Personal Property Appraisal work, or if you need a Speaker for an upcoming meeting or event, call Mike at (215)-264-4304, or visit: www.michaelivankovichappraisals.com