Identifying old silver, brass and stainless steel server (STS) pans, serving trays and other items can be worthwhile if you take your time. Many antique metal items are hallmarked; others are not hallmarked and may require destructive processes to identify their metal contents. On occasion, even when items are stamped, they could possibly be mislabelled as to their metal content.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Hallmark and identification references
Acquire old silver or brass pans and trays. People often pass antique silver and brass items down in their families from generation to generation. Garage sales, thrift stores, and online auctions frequently offer old antique silver or brass pans and trays.
Read history and information about antique silver and brass items. Some of the most common identification stamps on silver items are "silver," "sterling," and "925." Brass items or items that are stainless steel, silver toned, or silver plated might require testing techniques that could possibly be damaging or destructive to the trays or pans themselves, if the items are not hallmarked or stamped.
Purchase specialised metal acid test kits and touch stone. Purchase a special jewellery saw for sawing into metal items. Special metal acid test kits and tools can be purchased online or at jeweller's supply stores.
Compare the hallmarks on the silver, brass, or stainless steel server pans and trays with silver hallmark reference guides. Look for partial marks that could have been rubbed or worn off throughout the item's life. For example, an item marked "G SILVER" might have originally been stamped "STERLING SILVER," with parts of the first word worn off. Even if an item has a hallmark or partial hallmarks, perform acid tests or saw into the item to verify or confirm its metal content. Some older items contain parts that are silver, brass, or stainless steel, while other parts are only plated or iron.
Scratch the tray on a special testing touch stone to confirm a silver, brass, or stainless steel server's tray's contents. Apply the correct metal acid testing solution to the scratch mark and follow the kit's instructions. If the item is plated and has a silver hallmark, use other methods that could further mar or destroy the looks of or functional nature of the piece to verify its contents further.
Saw into different parts of the tray or pan with the jewellery saw. After sawing the item and destroying its value for use, bend apart the item so that you can examine the internal metal composition of the pan or tray. Visually determine whether to perform additional acid testing by looking at the inside of the metal that you have sawn and bent apart. Look for different colours of layered plated metals inside of the item. If there are, continue with the acid and touch stone tests on the interior parts of the silver, brass, or stainless steel antique server, pan, or tray.
Tips and warnings
- Research common silver, brass, and stainless steel hallmarks online. Antique items are often valued for their intrinsic beauty in addition to their metal content. Many items have parts or components that are silver, brass, or stainless steel, and are combined with legs or handles that could be made of other metals and plating.
- If you are spending a lot of money on antique silver, brass, or stainless steel server's items, get a written guarantee of the items' metal content, along with their provenance. Get a receipt, and have the seller offer refunds on the item that he has guaranteed to be of a particular metal content. Read all hallmark and sales terms and conditions prior to purchase. If you purchase the item in a lot, be willing to return all of the items to the seller, if they agree to accept returns, in their original undamaged condition. Provide the seller with a professional metals assay if you are making claims contesting the metal content if and when returning the item.
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