There’s no dinner party without a Sterling Silver Flatware set to elevate the table. It’s more special when it’s a family heirloom passed down through generations. What makes this vintage sterling silver flatware different from silverplate and other variations?
A 12-set box sells no less than $2,000 – $3,000 while the individual pieces border on $100 per piece. You can make up to $16,000 for a boxed set that’s in good condition, and each piece is easy to maintain.
Sterling silver flatware have been forever in vogue, since its inception sometime in the 14th century, it has remained one of the most valuable collectibles in the world. There are so many beautiful patterns to choose from, and they can get confusing. That’s why we made this guide.
You’ll learn the difference between Sterling silver and Silverplate, Maintenance, Identification, Valuation, and how to buy when you’re ready to start collecting.
Table of Contents
10 Most Valuable Sterling Silver Flatware Patterns
Before we discuss the most valuable sterling silver flatware, let’s get the description out of the way. You don’t want to enter an antique/vintage store asking for the wrong name – it’ll put you at an instant disadvantage.
You call the name of the Pattern + By Maker or Maker + Pattern. So, you can either say “Grand Baroque by Wallace” or “Wallace Grand Baroque.”
Reed & Barton
10. Francis I
Patent Year: 1907
Maker: Reed and Barton
When a designer sets out to impress a King, you can only expect excellence, which describes Francis I. This Baroque-inspired art is a tribute to King Francis I Benvenuto Cellini ascending the throne in 1515.
Francis I by Reed and Barton has a cluster of fifteen fruits and flowers on the handle, making it one of the elaborate pieces of the early 20th century, although inspired by 16th-century renaissance art.
Fun Fact: Famous men like Eisenhower, Truman, and Wilson collected Francis I, and hobbyist consider it the flatware of Presidents and Kings. After all, it was designed originally for a King.
9. Rose Point
Patent Year: 1934
Wallace Rose Point is another openwork pattern flatware with two leaves flanking a delicate rose blossom flower. Unlike the earlier Sterling silver flatware with rounded edges, it has sharp edges.
Collectors favor Rose Point by Wallace for its swanky scrollwork, floral motif, and perforated stem.
Fun Fact: Wallace had a second business that focused on Silverplate flatware to make affordable sets for the masses.
Patent Year: 1953
Are you looking for something exquisite yet slightly understated? Then you’d love Eloquence by Lunt. The ornate detailing on the handle incorporates an openwork pattern on both ends.
After Lunt sold its business rights and inventions to Reed & Barton in 2009, it auctioned the remaining assets under its name. So, if you find a Lunt sterling silver flatware, hold on to it tightly because that’s a generational investment.
Fun Fact: George C. Lunt started as an engraver in Towle’s company before branching out to form his business.
Patent Year: 1828
Manipulating silver into ornate and intricate designs takes skill and time in a process the French call “Repousse.” Loosely translated, that means pushed back, which is what silversmiths (and goldsmiths) do to design your favorite Sterling silver flatware.
After sharing the top spot in the market individually, Kirk and Stieff merged for absolute domination. The new company adopted the Baltimore Repousse technique for its flagship flatware, and it became one of its most valuable and popular designs.
Repousse by Kirk-Stieff is for flower lovers who love to feel their motif as they dig into dinner. Its entire handle has an assorted floral embossment.
Fun Fact: Kirk-Steiff was bought out by the American company Lenox.
Patent Year: 1939
Do you ever catch yourself staring at your reflection, shinning sterling silver during a meal? Well, you can with this wide handle flatware. Prelude by International has a reflective surface with ornate garlands on the tippy top and connecting base.
You’ve probably seen the knock-offs and imitations in current brand flatware – that’s a testament to the design’s impact.
Fun Fact: International Silver Co. ran a Hollywood radio show in the Thirties to promote its silver using famous actresses like Constance Bennett and Joan Crawford.
Patent Year: 1948
Born out of love and secrecy during the Second World War, Gorham and three Natchez ladies designed the Melrose Sterling silver as “a symbol of Southern Grandeur.”
Gorham Melrose Sterling silver flatware has an unusual depth and boldness to its design. You can see the delicate hands of the founding Natchez ladies in the elegant curves and intricate details.
Famous designer J. Russell Price designed Melrose by Gorham with an intricate marriage of scalloped silhouette and scrolling leaf. He sealed the union with a thick blossom border, leaving a smooth line in the middle.
Fun Fact: Melrose is a Rococo style revival.
4. Old Master
Patent Year: 1942
Old Master by Towle reminds you of a time before Instant Messaging and Emojis. Its handle is an elegant hourglass ornate pattern with scrolls guiding a delicate blossom flower. With Old Master, there’s no pressure to find complete sets because it fits with anything.
Although Towle boasts several reputable designs going to the White House, Museum of Modern Art, and achieving impressive feats, collectors recognize Old Master as its star flatware.
Fun Fact: Towle was an apprentice in the famous Moulton family of Silversmiths until he broke out with fellow apprentice William P. Jones in 1857.
3. Royal Danish
Patent Year: 1939
Are you still confused about what to choose? Then you’d love International Royal Danish for its masterful blend of patterns. Its stem uses the Art Deco geometric symmetry while the top and connecting base adopt intricate openwork detailing.
Royal Danish by International is that Sterling Silver Flatware you use confidently for an impromptu dinner. The traditional and modern blend makes it versatile to fit into any occasion. Be careful when lifting it, though; it weighs quite a ton (just kidding. It’s not that heavy).
Fun Fact: Royal Danish has Scandinavian roots and is still considered royalty in the Scandinavian tradition.
2. Grand Baroque
Patent Year: 1941
There’s no collector gathering you’ll attend that won’t star Grand Baroque by Wallace. It’s as elaborate as they come with its ornate floral base that takes you back to grand balls in the 1700s. It was exclusive to the rich and famous of the early 1900s.
Its intricate detailing exaggerated the already elaborate baroque style designs hence the name.
Patent Year: 1895
Price: $ 16,995
Although Chantilly by Gorham is an Art Nouveau design, its intricate detailing is simple. You can enjoy your meal without feeling a crowded handle as your hand grips the elegant lines. There’s no doubt William Christmas Codman outdid himself with Gorham Chantilly.
Fun Fact: The “Chantilly” design was very successful, leading to recreation in holloware and silverplate. George W. Bush used Gorham Chantilly on the Air Force One in 2001.
How To Identify Sterling Silver
Because of its popularity, some people pass off Silverplate as Sterling silverware. It’s also possible to make an ignorant mistake when you don’t know the difference. Luckily, distinguishing Sterling from Silverplate (video) is easy.
Identification by Number and Name
Most Sterling silver flatware has Sterling or 925 engraved on the handle, whereas Silverplate has Plated or Electroplated. Be careful not to dismiss an unmarked piece, though, because early antique sterling silver from independent manufacturers has no engraving.
When that happens, you can rely on other forms of identification.
Noting The Hallmarks
A Hallmark is an official stamp certifying the standard on a precious metal – it tells you, “That’s a good choice.” It consists of three marks – 925, Assay Office, and Sponsors.
“925” means 92.5% Silver content certifying it Sterling. Assay marks differ based on the year and region, so they’re good for dating Sterling silver flatware. In 1363, a statute bound every silversmith (and goldsmith) to mark their items to ensure quality.
Every manufacturer has a unique hallmark that’s a signature for customers to distinguish their designs from competitors. Antique sterling silver flatware before the 17th century has symbols as the Maker’s mark. Then, it changed to Maker’s initials in 1719.
Flip your sterling silver flatware over and check (use a magnifier for clearer vision) for a combination of these marks.
Spot The Difference in Patterns
Another significant indicator on sterling silver flatware is the Pattern. Antique and Vintage sterling silver flatware has distinct patterns due to the intricate detailing involved in crafting them. They were decorative pieces as they were meant for feasting.
Study the different patterns on popular and valuable sterling silver flatware based on era. For instance, Art Nouveau designed sterling silver flatware with elaborate floral motifs, while Art Deco favored clean-cut geometric lines.
You can start with the list above then proceed to Antique Cupboard to see more options.
How To Buy Sterling Silver Flatware
There’s no standard rule on how to buy a Sterling Silver, but you can follow these easy steps;
- Choose a boxed set
- Choose a Pattern
- Mix and Match
Choose a Boxed Set
Sterling Silver flatware boxed sets of 12 pieces/type make the best collectibles. With complete box sets, you’d get silverware in a single pattern that works for Type A characters – people who love order and perfection.
The only downside to buying a boxed set is the scarcity and (maybe) the considerable amount of dollars it’ll set you back. They’re more expensive (running into five figures and more) than singles and mini-sets of four. If you’re willing to splurge, though, that shouldn’t be a problem.
If you don’t find a box set to your liking and you’re adventurous, keep reading to find out how to buy sterling silver flatware.
Choose a Pattern
Choosing a pattern is an essential part of buying antique sterling silver flatware. The value of every silver flatware is in its pedigree. “Who made it?” and “What’s the Design like?”
It’s just like current-day designers – you may not own a luxury item, but some names resonate even before you enter the store. It’s the same for Sterling silver flatware. As a first-time collector, some brands would ring a bell, and if they didn’t, the patterns would.
We have Baroque/Rococo style designs, Scandinavian geometry, Art Deco, Art Nouveau, and more based on era. Then, there are the famous names like International, Reed & Barton, Towle, Gorham, Lunt, Kirk-Stieff, and Wallace (in no order.)
Finally, you can identify Sterling Silver flatware by the Pattern on the handle. You must’ve heard of Chantilly, Rose Point, Francis I, Repousse, Eloquence, Grand Baroque, Melrose, Royal Danish, Old Master, and Prelude. (Also, in no particular order.)
If you don’t find the same pattern of a set and don’t mind, we suggest you mix and match.
Mix and Match
Mixing and Matching your Sterling silver flatware can be a fun experience. Not only would it save you from stressing over finding complete sets, but also the assortment can become an exciting adventure.
Let’s put it this way, Monochrome is beautiful, but so is the rainbow. It’ll be your “rainbow” of Flatware, and in no time, you may gather a complete set from a sporadic collection. You’ll never know until you try.
How Much is Sterling Silver Flatware Worth?
Sterling Silver flatware value primarily depends on its pedigree – the Pattern and the Maker. Specific patterns serviced famous people from Royals to Presidents, so you can expect to break the bank (only if you’re buying a whole set) to buy one.
Why are you getting Sterling Silver flatware? Exactly. The more the silverware, the more expensive it’ll be because there’s a certain je ne sais quoi about complete sets. Thus, boxed sets are worth more than single sets, as explained in How to buy a Sterling Silver Flatware.
Acquiring different collections of Sterling Silver Flatware is an exciting hobby and a significant investment. It’ll always be in style as long as we still host luncheons and dinners on earth. So, buying the right sterling silver flatware would never be a waste of money.
Some tips to help you in your collection;
- If you can’t find a complete set, consider mixing patterns – they’re beautiful too.
- Depending on your taste, start with an era like Art Nouveau or Art Deco.
- Prioritize Sterling silver with visible Hallmarks and good condition.
Q: How can I clean my Sterling Silver Flatware?
A: Line an aluminum bow with aluminum foil then, pour in a cup of baking soda. The double aluminum quickens the Sulphur reaction. Next, carefully arrange your Sterling silver flatware in the bowl, then pour in boiling water until it is submerged.
Please wait for it to bubble and ooze out a pungent odor, then remove them with tongs. Please wear protective rubber gloves if you can so you don’t burn your hands handling the flatware. You may use a polish after drying off the moisture based on personal preference. You can watch this video for a demonstration.
Q: Where can you Buy Sterling Silver Flatware?
A: You can buy your Sterling Silver Flatware from accredited online stores like Replacement.com, 1stDibs, or eBay. Replacement.com is the largest online store for this item, though, and you can also confirm your flatware’s authenticity on the site.