Germany began producing silver plate flatware commercially in the mid-1800s. The earliest silver plate was not marked with the amount of silver content nor did it always have the manufacturer mark. Silver plate manufacturers began marking the silver content of their flatware starting in the 1860s. Silver plate flatware, even some of the less vintage designs, is sought after by collectors. Identify your silver plate flatware patterns to know the value of your set or to purchase additional place settings or serving pieces.
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Examine the larger pieces of vintage flatware such as knives, soup spoons or serving pieces. Vintage manufacturers did not always place their name or symbol on the smaller pieces of the set. Look for the mark on the back of the spoon cradle, the knife blade, the back of the fork tines or as part of the pattern design on the front of the flatware. Use a magnifying glass to aid in reading small symbols.
Identify silver plate flatware patterns when you have identified the manufacturer by visiting either the manufacturer website (if the company is still in business) or an online encyclopedia of silver marks, hallmarks and makers' marks.
Identify silver plate flatware patterns when there is a symbol but not a manufacturer name by looking through books in the research section of the public library. The books may not be available for loan so take a pencil rubbing, close-up photo or sketch with you. There are more than 11,000 silver marks, so it may take a few visits before identifying your flatware pattern.
Identify silver plate flatware patterns when there is no manufacturer identification of any kind by taking one of the larger pieces of the set to an antique dealer who specializes in silver plate items.