Many companies produced sterling silver and silver plate candlesticks in Sheffield, England in the 18th and 19th centuries. While sterling silver made in Sheffield is available and collectable, it is the silver plate that most people associate with the words "Sheffield Silver." Sheffield Plate can be found at flea markets and antique shops, and is relatively affordable, even though it is highly collectable.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Things you need
- Magnifying glass or jeweller loup
Look for a seam. The silver plate process was invented in Sheffield in the late 1700s. A sheet of copper was sandwiched between two sheets of silver, formed into the appropriate shape and then soldered together. If you do not see a seam, it means that the item is electroplated, a process that was developed around 1840, which covered up the join. Although the seam will be visible to the naked eye, a magnifying glass can be helpful here to spot copper.
Look for areas where the silver has worn away and the copper shows through. You will find this especially around the borders. Some copper show-through is desirable because it means that the item has not been re-plated, which lessens its value.
Candlesticks are holloware and the earlier versions were formed by hand or cast. Later the process of die-stamping was invented and the candlesticks were formed on steel dies, carved in various patterns. Since the candlesticks were much lighter than their sterling counterparts, the insides were often weighted with sand or some other substance. Some candlesticks were stamped "weighted."
Much of the plate sliver made in Sheffield did not bear a maker's mark. Since the items were not sterling they did not need any silver marks. However, sometimes the pieces were stamped with maker's initials. There are several online resources which show maker's marks (see Resources). If a piece is stamped with the words "Sheffield Plated" then it is not old Sheffield Plate, but rather later electroplated silver. Some of the marks can be quite small so a jeweller loup or magnifying glass might be necessary to see them.
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