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Pick up a Silver spoon, a tray or creamer and turn it over. Chances are its going to read sterling, or 925. If, instead it tells you, EPNS, you have learned two very important things about the piece you are looking at.

It isn’t very old actually, and it isn’t really silver.

One thing at a time is how we learn about purchasing antiques, gleaned from the experts in the field, or very savvy collectors who have been in the business a lot longer than we have.

The piece that says EPNS, will look like silver, it will degrade and tarnish like silver, it sill perhaps have been in your family for years and has a firm hold in the family tree, but its isn’t silver, its without a doubt, Electroplated nickel silver and what is it, is soft, base metals, sitting beneath a lovely thin coat of silver.

If you know nothing more about silver than this as a beginner, that is the best bit of information that you can have.
Antique silver is one of the most fascinating things to collect, because it has such a rich full history.

Silver plate was invented in the late 18th century, and prior to that time, an object that looked like silver, and tarnished like silver, was generally silver.

Silver was at the time one of the most valuable substances in the world being used for decorative art pieces. It was, in terms of usage, second only to gold.

Much like gold, silver was able to be melted and had to have a small amount of another metal added to it, as it was far to soft to be useful without a hardening agent, usually a tiny amount of copper added to it.

Sadly, because silver was able to be melted, a great deal of what was made down through the ages has been lost to us by virtue of the fact that it was at one point or another, melted down to make a kings ransom, or a rifle ball.

The same silver that may grace your table today, may well have come from the serving plate of a princess from the tenth century.

Not so long ago, in the 1980’s the silver market was very lucrative and demanding and with that demand came literally tons of silver into the hands of those who wanted to melt it down. Much of what was melted at that time was some very old, antique silver materials that went to the smelt to be used for other goods.

Silver in the early days was traditionally done with a hammer, and then engraving tools, casting molds and also dies.
It was made into rattles, gravy boats, grammar’s wedding silver as well as a cup for grandfathers coffee.

As metals go, silver is far less valuable than gold or platinum, and a bit more valuable than bronze.
Silver does not occur in a natural state, it will need to be extracted from other ores and as such did not come into play in great quantities until the middle ages.

In these times, men of vast wealth had made literally hundreds of candlesticks, cups, goblets, and even plates and platters for high toned lavish meals.

Silver is the ultimate in recyclable, and as such is still very popular today although the price for pieces being made in current day has lowered a great deal due to the dropping prices. The same can not be said of antique silver items.

It is highly sought after and avidly collected by many hundreds of people world wide. This particular piece, which comes from an online site, was made by Mortimer and hunt, between 1839 and 1843. It is about 28 inches tall and is finely engraved with a coat of arms. The current asking price for this fine candelabra is about 22,500 dollars.

Silver is becoming more and more in demand, and antique silver doubly so. Anything that you can possess in gold may also be made in silver and because silver is so much less costly, there is more of it to collect. If you choose to begin collecting silver, take the time to educate yourself on the craft and some of the more important silver makers down through the years, so that you can choose wisely the pieces that you want, and know one variety and design technique from another.

One site which will give you some excellent tips and images on collecting is Spencer Marks. Happy Collecting!


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