Silver plate place settings are available in a variety of styles and designs. Knowing how to distinguish between them takes a practiced eye and a guidebook. There may be times when you have to clean the discoloration from the pieces with silver cleaner before identification can take place. Over time, the more you identify the better your silver savvy will get. Properly identifying silver plate place settings provides insight into the value of them should you have stumbled upon some old silver in your attic.
Things You'll Need
"Silver Pattern" guidebook
Place the silver plate piece on a flat workspace that has a bench light attached to it. Direct the light toward the plate. Inspect the edges of the piece.
Take a picture using the macro setting on the digital camera. Look for one of five different edge styles: floral, squared (where the edge design is in a rectangular or squared-off ridge on the end of the flatware), flow (where the edges have a raised design that mimics flowing liquid), spatulated (which has a very wide end to the flatware and setting like a spatula) and round. Use the photo to cross-reference with the "Silver Pattern" guidebook. If you find a floral design and some etchings along the side, you could be looking at an American Beauty Rose pattern.
Examples of a flow design are the Daffodil from 1950 and the Chateau made in 1934. Squared designs include the 1886 Dundee and the 1923 Century. Spatula designs include the Eudora from 1888 and the modern El California from 1961.
If the piece is dirty, pour a little silver cleaner onto a chamois cloth and gently rub down any black discoloration on the silver plate piece. Use a magnifying glass to inspect the etchings and edge design. Once clean, take pictures of the cleaned setting piece to cross-reference with the guidebook.
Inspect the back of the piece for backstamps. Manufacturers of American silver plate settings etched a backstamp on the back of their pieces. Other countries used a stamp to mark different parts of the settings, so inspect thoroughly. Use the magnifying glass to read the number. Write down the stamp identifying number and look up the number in the guidebook to help you identify the piece correctly. The stamp is the predominate piece of identifying information.
Look for names such as Gorham or Reed and Barton. These are American makers of silver settings. English silversmiths include Walker and Hall. Other names to look for include Grenoble, Holly and Hanover.