Sterling silver is a particular alloy of silver. It is often used in fine flatware. But it’s also used in a few niche products, like flutes. That makes it a common source of a precious metal (silver) that attracts more interest during economically challenging times like this.
The price of Sterling silver is controlled by many of the same factors that control the price of regular silver. But there are several serious differences between the two. And if you want to make some money from old flatware, there are several things you need to know first. So, we’ll go over how to buy silver for beginners.
Sterling silver is very cheap right now. So, it’s as good a time as ever to look into how valuable Sterling silver is, and everything else you need to know about it.
How Much Is Sterling Silver Flatware Worth?
The value of sterling silver and the value of regular silver are strongly connected. But it’s the value of the silver in sterling that makes sterling silver particularly valuable. When it comes to function, the uses for regular silver and sterling silver also differ.
Normal silver has several aesthetic and industrial uses. Those uses come alongside silver’s simple value as a precious metal commodity. Silver is also used in tech. Some technologies that are now obsolete, like camera film, used to consume a lot of silver. New technologies like solar panels now use silver. But the uses for sterling silver are altogether different.
What Is Sterling Silver Used For?
Stirling silver is primarily known for its use in tableware. The alloy is often used in the production of high-quality:
- Serving trays
- Musical instruments
Sterling silver is designed to be more resilient than normal silver, while also keeping that same silver shine.
The price of fine cutlery and instruments is in part due to the expensive nature of making those products. But most of the value of sterling silver cutlery now comes from the sterling silver itself. For that reason, it’s more important to consider the purity and quality of sterling silver. While an exquisite knife may look expensive, if the knife isn’t quality sterling silver, it won’t be as valuable.
So How Do You Know How Valuable Your Sterling Silver Is?
The first thing you need to do with your sterling silver flatware is to make sure that it is indeed sterling silver. To do that, check for a hallmark number 925. That number is meant to signify that the flatware or other sterling silver item is 92.5% silver. We’ll delve into what exactly sterling silver is and how it’s made soon…
For now, just know that if the hallmark number is less than 925, your flatware contains a lower-than-standard portion of silver in it. If your flatware has no number at all but appears to be silver, it’s likely just silver-plated.
If your flatware has the 925 hallmark and is legitimate sterling silver, you just have some basic math to do. First, you need to weigh the flatware. Take the total weight (likely in grams) and multiply it by 0.925.
Once you multiply the total grams of your 925 flatware by 0.925, you can convert your grams into ounces. There are 28.3495 grams in an ounce. So, take your grams (g) and divide that value by the total grams in an ounce:
Lastly, you’ll need to look up the current price of silver. Silver is listed by the ounce, and right now it’s very cheap. One ounce of silver is hovering around a price of $17 as of May 2020. But during the worst of a recession, the price of silver often reaches double that value. In fact, during the 2011 recession, one ounce of silver reached a price of $43.46!
Where To Sell Sterling Silver
There are plenty of places to sell sterling silver in the US. Regardless of where you go, it’s up to you to make sure you don’t get ripped off.
If you read the previous section, you now know how to accurately assess the value of any sterling silver flatware you have. But the people who buy sterling silver for a living also know how to properly assess silver sterling’s value. For that reason, it’s important to go to a buyer that’s looking for your silver as an investment. Many pawn shop owners make money by buying old sterling silver flatware for significantly less than it’s worth. They can then quickly trade the silver away for its value in weight. You don’t want to get undersold for someone else’s profit.
You can often find the best offers on marketplaces like eBay and Craigslist. That’s because these platforms typically allow individual sellers to trade with individual buyers. The shoppers who would buy your sterling silver on eBay or Craigslist aren’t out there to buy your silver at a low price, melt it, and sell it. They will either want your sterling silver as a collectible, for their personal use or as an investment.
Online Silver Buyers
Some specialized silver buyers will buy your sterling silver online. These buyers typically buy sterling silver for its melt value. You’ll have to mail them the sterling silver you want to sell before you get an offer.
After they received your shipped sterling silver, they will assess it for purity and weigh the silver. They will then have the silver melted and compensate you for the silver.
There are a few problems with silver purchasing companies online. Often, your price will be locked once they receive your flatware or other sterling silver. If you accidentally send silver-plated forks, for example, you may not get them back. Even when you send quality sterling silver flatware, they will likely pay you less than many other buyers.
The main benefit these sellers offer is convenience.
You can sell sterling silver items directly to a refinery. But many of them won’t accept small amounts of silver. If you have a lot of sterling silver, you can get the best rates for scrap silver.
Pawnshops and cash-for-gold businesses will often accept your sterling silver items. Many of them will offer the same rates that coin shops and retailers would. But some will offer you too little. Cash-for-gold businesses, in particular, tend to just be middlemen that will offer you unacceptably low prices.
Bullion retailers like Money Metals Exchange and JM Bullion will also accept sterling silver. They typically offer better rates for silver coins, but you may find a great rate for sterling silver from some bullion retailers.
What is Sterling Silver Made Of?
Sterling silver’s weight is usually 92.5% silver, with the other 7.5% coming from several other metals, most of which is copper. It is alloyed with copper, increasing its hardness. Despite this, Sterling silver is vulnerable to tarnishing if it’s not taken good care of.
While most silver items have the “925” hallmark on them, you may see lower hallmark numbers. The lower the number is, the less silver it has in it. Think of the number as a percentage, where 1000 would be 100%, and 95 would be 9.5%.
Why You Should Buy More Silver Now
Silver is always a good investment. Especially when you buy it when the price is still down.
Silver prices tend to go up during economic downturns, especially when they were already low before a recession began. That’s because silver has always been valued for its unique value. The precious metal serves as a hedge against inflation, like gold. Adding silver to your portfolio offers you unique protection against:
- Stock market crashes
- Market panic
Silver can be a difficult asset to fit into your portfolio. But with dealer price silver bars costing just over $170, now is the right time to buy.
Selling sterling silver is a good idea when you need the cash. But right now is a time to acquire more regular silver. The best place to buy silver is now online. Bullion retailers like Money Metals Exchange can sell you silver coins and bars quickly and at fair prices.
3 Extra Facts About Sterling Silver
1. Sterling silver isn’t an investment
While the value of sterling silver changes alongside regular silver, the latter is a much better investment. Making the sterling silver alloy and melting the silver back out of it adds extra steps that are completely unnecessary if you’re just looking for an investment. A 10oz silver bar is the kind of investment that will help you protect yourself against inflation and other economic challenges.
2. Sterling silver is damn strong
Why would you lower the value of a silver object by adding copper to it?
Silver is a very weak metal on its own. But sterling silver offers you the good looks silver brings to the table, but with enough strength to keep your tableware operational.
3. Sterling silver is less resilient than regular silver
Adding copper to silver makes it stronger. But copper is also much more easily oxidized. When copper and other metals come into contact with oxygen, they start to leave a tarnish.