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How to Identify an Antique Silver Cigarette Case

Updated April 17, 2017

A cigarette case is any little box used for storage of cigarettes. Cases vary in style and size depending on what year they were produced, but silver cases have been timeless in their popularity. Silver-coloured metal may be a mix of silver and another metal, or another mix of metals entirely. When examining a cigarette case to approximate its age and value, look for a stamp or brand on the piece. Not every piece will be marked, and some older pieces may have the mark worn away, but such marks offer good clues to the country of origin.

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Look and feel for a mark around the back, edges and interior of the piece. Often you will find stamps or brands on the inner sealing edge of the case.

Identify the mark. Common marks include "925," which is found on sterling silver, and "EPNS," which stands for electroplated nickel silver (nickel with a thin silver finish). Other markings require a guide to define because silversmiths used personal stamps and marks to indicate that they were the maker. Silversmiths also often dated the piece with the year in which it was made.

Attach a magnet to an unmarked piece to determine if it is actually silver. If it is steel or iron, the magnet will stick.

Tip

When examining a cigarette case, ask yourself, is this a quality piece? Does it look handcrafted? Is there detail in the piece that you do not see in machine-made pieces? Silver does not flake or get wear spots, whereas silverplate and chrome often do. While silverplate often has little value, there are particular makers, such as Sheffield, that have elaborate designs that do command higher prices.

Warning

Avoid overpolishing silver pieces. A little tarnish does not harm silver items, and undercleaning is always better than overcleaning. If you feel that more intensive cleaning is needed, consult a jeweller with access to professional polishing tools.

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Things You'll Need

  • Magnet
  • Magnifying glass

About the Author

Rachel McKay Laskowski has a B.A. in creative writing from Antioch College. She is a second-generation antique dealer whose focus is American impressionist, WPA, and social realist paintings. She is also an experienced landlord and her passion is volunteering to help dogs and animals in disaster situations.

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