Sterling Silver

Pure silver, is generally too soft for producing functional objects, so silver is usually alloyed with copper to give it strength while maintaining the appearance of a precious metal. Sterling silver contains 92.5% silver and 7.5% of other metals, usually copper.

Sterling silver was first used for commerce as early as the 12th century. The first legal definition of sterling silver specified that 12 ounces of silver for coinage should contain 11 ounces 2 1⁄4 pennyweights of silver and 17 3⁄4 pennyweights of alloy, with 20 pennyweights to the Troy ounce.

Silver objects sold commercially are usually stamped with one or more silver hallmarks indicating the purity of the silver, the mark of the silversmith, and sometimes the date and location of manufacture.

Silver flatware includes tableware items that are relatively flat and constructed as a single piece. This includes silverware such as forks, knives and spoons.

Silver holloware (hollowware, or hollow-ware) includes tableware such as sugar bowls, creamers, coffee pots, teapots, tea sets, soup tureens, hot food covers, water jugs, platters, butter pat plates, and other metal items that went with the dishware on a table.

While sterling silver has intrinsic value for the silver content, antique sterling silver can have far more value as a collectible item. The additional value depends on the silversmith or maker, the quality of craftsmanship, the condition and age of the item.

Renowned silversmiths include:

  • Buccellati
  • Chrisofle
  • Georg Jensen
  • Gorham
  • Puiforcat
  • Tiffany
  • Towle
  • Wallace

Read the full history of sterling silver at Wikipedia by clicking here.



Most commercially available sterling silver objects are stamped with one or more silver hallmarks indicating the purity of the silver and the mark of the manufacturer. Some also have other markings to indicate date of manufacture and additional information about the piece.


Photo fromTiffany Studios (United States, New York, 1889 - 1902). original photograph on Flickr was taken by Beesnest McClain.

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