Glossary of Sterling Silver Terms
Gold has always been mined for its own sake but about 80% of silver was been recovered as a by-product of mining for other metals. This fact keeps the price of silver low in comparison to the prices of gold.
Silver was not always perceived as it is today. In fact, because silver is more difficult to find in its raw form than gold, the ancient Egyptians considered it more valuable than gold, and used gold far more lavishly in their funerary and regular jewelry. Silver has been associated with many things since ancient times, such as the moon, feminine forces and purity, because of it's color.
More light is reflected by silver than any other metal, including gold. Silver can reflect 95% of all light that falls on it. Gold reflects 92% of the light that falls on it. Silver is considered to be a noble metal and can be easily shaped and is excellent to work with. Silver can't be drawn (like a thread) as fine as gold.
Silver actually has greater tensile strength than gold. It can be bent, stretched and shaped without cracking. Its relative lightness makes silver suitable for large pieces of jewelry. Since it is so soft, scratches are easy to polish out.
Silver is a term used to describe several grades of metal alloy. These metal alloys range from 500 parts per thousand to almost pure silver. Low grade silver has a slightly red hue due to the amount of copper it contains. We have listed the most common mixtures and terms used when referring to silver including silver plate and pewter.
Caring For Silver
Silver's one major disadvantage is that it is strongly affected by sulphur, causing it to tarnish. It becomes yellow, then brown streaks and patches appear, and finally it gets black. Silver can be cleaned with solid polishes (these are slightly abrasive), or can be cleaned with a liquid dip. After being cleaned the sliver needs to be dried and polished with a soft cloth. Foam polishes can clean and polish at the same time.
Professional tips for Cleaning Your Silver are available. You will want to take a look at this information.
800 / 850
An alloy composed of 80% to 85% silver. Less pure than sterling.
892 / 900
Coin silver 89.2% to 90% silver. This standard was replaced by Sterling Silver (92.5%) after the Civil War.
925 / 1000
The alloy is composed of 92.5% silver. Another way to indicate Sterling Silver and is the standard for sterling silver.
The spoon has been detailed completely around to duplicate the three dimensional view of the spoon object.
The normally rounded portion of a spoon where the contents are placed.
Bright Cut Engraving
A decoration made by cutting out a portion of the silver to leave a shiny surface.
A present day alloy of 91% tin, 7% antimony and 2% copper.
The legal standard for silver in England from 1697-1719. Composed of 95.8% silver. It remains a present day legal standard.
Making of silver items by pouring molten metal into a mold.
A bowl that is more pointed than normal for eating fruit, like grapefruit.
An alloy composed of 90% silver and 10% copper. Coin Silver melts at 1615 degrees F.
Spoons that are made fairly recently and collected by tourists and other collectors. Usually not expensive, they are made from materials other than sterling silver and may be nickel silver (EPNS) or silver plated metal.
An alloy composed of tin and lead.
A term applied to commercial grade silver which is 99.9% fine silver. Pure silver melts at 1761 degrees F.
An area on the spoon handle that is cut away to highlight a detail or feature.
Method in which most spoons today are made. Sheet silver is formed into the spoon when the sheet is hit by steel dies.
The pattern left on the spoon when it is stamped by the die.
A finish that is baked onto a spoon, usually glossy, that adds color and details.
Enamel that has ridges between the colors to separate them.
Enamel that incorporates thin strips of metal are used to separate the colors.
Enamel that is created without metal backing. This method creates a stained glass window effect.
Tools are used to cut an image into the surface of a spoon.
Abbreviation for Electro Plated Nickel Silver. Often found on silverware or hollow-ware like teapots or heavy serving bowls.
An image left on the spoon by using acid.
Full length figure that appears on most of the spoon handle. Two versions (FF) appears on most of the handle and (ff) which appears on some of the handle.
the shape at the end of a spoon's stem. This may be a figure or other detailed object.
Gold is applied to a portion of the spoon for contrast, usually to the bowl.
Marks on a spoon that are used to determine the date, purity and the maker of the spoon. Used on English silver.
The part of the spoon that is held when the spoon is used.
A reinforced area on the back of a spoon where the stem attaches to the bowl. Sometimes this area may be decorated.
Marks on a spoon that are used to determine the manufacturer of the spoon. Used on American silver.
Company who actually made the spoon.
Sterling silver normally has some kind of mark that indicates the purity of the metal on the spoon or other item that has been made. American manufacturers stamp the word "STERLING" on items made from 92.5% silver or better. Some spoons but not, have very descriptive identification numbers or "Makers Marks". There are many reference books and lists on the internet.
A spoon made after World War I.
An alloy composed of 65% copper, 28% nickel and 17% zinc. It does NOT contain any silver.
Black alloy is used to fill in the engraved design.
The side of a spoon you see normally.
A spoon made before World War I.
A measure of silver in the troy ounce system. Sometimes seen on the back of plated items to show the quality of silver used with an item. 20 pennyweights = 1 troy ounce.
Pewter at one time was primarily a lead alloy. It is now made of at least 51% tin, copper and antimony composition, similar to Britannia Metal.
A spoon bowl with no marks from engraving or other method.
A spoon that has been plated with a thin layer of silver material. The base metal of the spoon can be made of several different kinds materials.
When a spoon is made in recent times from the old dies.
A design that was beaten into the spoon from the reverse side.
The side of the spoon not seen when eating. The back side of the spoon.
Two methods of marking are used. Sterling Silver = 92.5% pure and Britannia = 95.8%.
Silverplate is made by electroplating fine silver on a base metal alloy, usually nickel or Britannia metal and sometimes brass or copper. Silver plate is measured in "Microns" and can vary greatly from one piece to another. Top quality silverplating may contain two or three times the microns of less expensive plating.
A spoon handle that has material removed to make the scene more realistic looking.
A spoon that is made to celebrate a place, time, person or an event. These spoons are usually made from sterling silver. The most prolific time for production of these classic souvenir spoons was before 1920. Dating from the 1890 to the 1920s these spoons were stamped, embossed, cast and etched. Many spoons have hand engraving on them to personalize them for the owner. Most collectors believe this engraving does not decreases the spoons value, but in fact, may give it more character.
Marking a spoon with high pressure.
The long usually slender part of the spoon.
An alloy composed of at least or 92.5% silver and no more than 7.5% copper. This means that 925 parts of every 1000 parts are pure silver. The copper is added to the mix to make items made from silver strong because without the copper content the silver is relatively soft. Silver is valued for its strength and bright shiny characteristics. Sterling Silver melts at 1640 degreesF.
The end of the spoon which is at the opposite end from the bowl. Inscriptions are usually engraved here.
A mark on a spoon identifying the maker of the spoon that has been registered with the government.
Imperial system for measuring precious metal or stones. Troy Ounce = 20 pennyweights and Troy Pound = 12 Troy Ounces.