Silver plate or silver plated flatware was the popular everyday silverware used at the turn of the 20th century. The American housekeeper replaced silver plated utensils with stainless flatware in the last half of the 20th century. Stainless has durability and aesthetic beauty, but silver plated flatware can be associated with memories and age. Silver plated flatware is collectable, not for the value of the silver but for the style and scarcity of patterns.
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Silver plated flatware has a thin coating of sterling silver over the base metal that contains the shape and design of the pattern. Copper, brass and nickel silver are suitable base metals for flatware, and the silver plating uses an electrolytic process first patented in 1840. Sheffield plate is a different process that fuses silver to a base metal, usually copper, and is used primarily in England.
Silver plate has different thicknesses of electroplating, often marked on the back of the utensil. Double plate is a heavier coating than standard plate. You may see triple plate or quadruple plate or maybe XXX. These pieces have more silver coating than the standard plate. Quadruple plate has four times the silver coating of standard silver plate.
EPNS or E.P.N.S. is a mark for electroplated nickel silver, revealing the base metal as well as the electroplating process. Many flatware utensils are marked "silverplate" on the back, along with the name of the manufacturer. International, Rogers and Oneida are names that have been associated with silver plated flatware for over a century. The 1847 Rogers mark often provides a clue to a collectable silver plated utensil. Tiffany made some silver plated flatware that is very collectable.
Manufacturers made flower patterns in the style of the era. Many Art Nouveau silver plate flatware patterns with scrolls and Victorian charm are available on the secondary market, made up until about 1920. Art Deco geometric shapes took over in the 1920s, replaced by the plain and austere patterns of the 1930s and 1940s. The 1950s patterns show signs of Mid-Century Modern style and the 1960s patterns went to atomic designs with stars and orbs. Some of the most collectable patterns are grape and grapevine designs. Designs with faces or women are choice collectibles as well. Serving pieces are most in demand for individuals attempting to complete sets of silver plate. Pieces in excellent condition have the silver plating intact, particularly on the heel, or back of the bowl of a spoon or fork.
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