Collectable sterling silver spoons may be full-size or demitasse spoons. Some collectable sterling silver spoons are souvenir spoons, but collectors also choose thematic spoons, such as figurals, states or flowers. Sterling silver usually carries identification of metal content and maker as well as country of origin. Sterling silver in the United States must be 92.5 per cent silver, often marked .925. You can learn some basic identification marks for sterling spoons by comparing your items with recognised logos.
A book on sterling silver flatware provides a starting point for identifying marks on sterling spoons. The same companies that make sets of sterling flatware make souvenir spoons and individual collectable spoons for the World's Fair and similar events. The index of basic manufacturer's marks is two pages in "Sterling Flatware," by Tere Hagan. Dorothy T. Rainwater has an alphabetical list of American silver manufacturers in the "Encyclopedia of American Silver Manufacturers," with photographs, line drawings and descriptions of known American manufacturers. This book has eight pages dedicated to a key to unlettered marks. You may find the unlettered marks the most difficult to identify.
Many of the manufacturers used letters or words to form their logos or identification marks. You can identify manufacturers by initials or words. Alvin Silver has a large "A" in the centre of the logo. Blackinton & Co. used a "B" in the centre. Richard Dimes has "RD" in the centre, and William B. Durgin used a fancy "D" in an oval. The Gorham mark looks English, with the rampant lion on the left, the anchor in the centre and an Old English "G" on the right. Baker Manchester's logo is birds holding an "M" in a shield. Mauser Manufacturing is an M in a diamond. Mount Vernon used "R.W.S CO." A bell on a signpost is the mark of Bell Trading Post, a contemporary New Mexico manufacturer of sterling silver items.
Many of the newer sterling silver spoons are imports from Mexico and Denmark. Mexican silver may be marked ".925" and not "sterling." Mexican silversmiths since 1979 have marked sterling silver from Mexico with two letters, a dash and two numbers. The first letter identifies the city in Mexico, and the second letter identifies the last name of the silversmith. The numbers identify the specific silversmith who uses the mark. For example, a TC-40 mark is a Taxco piece from a silversmith whose last name begins with "C" and who was the 40th silversmith to register. Sterling silver from Thailand may be marked "Siam Silver" if it is old, but new silver from Thailand is marked "Thai" or "Thailand" and .925.
Sterling silver is not the same in all countries. Sometimes silver spoons marked .800 or .900 are imported to the United States. These are 80 per cent silver and 90 per cent silver, often referred to as "coin silver" in the United States, although our coin silver must be .900 by law. Silver from the United Kingdom or Ireland may be marked 958 silver, the standard for Britannia silver in those countries. Manufacturers do not use pure silver for utensils, because it is too soft for practical use. Medallions or spoons enclosed in a frame or mounted for display may be .999 or fine silver.
- U.S. Federal Trade Commission: Guides for the Jewelry, Precious Metals and Pewter Industries -- Misrepresentation As To Silver Content
- .925-1000.com: Mexican Silver Marks & Makers' Marks
- Sterling Silver: The Sterling Silver Guide -- Silver Standards
- Souvenir Spoons: Makers' Marks
- "Sterling Flatware"; Tere Hagan; 1994
- "Encyclopedia of American Silver Manufacturers"; Third Edition Revised; Dorothy T. Rainwater; 1986