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How To Restore Vintage And Antique Silver Plate

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Introduction.

Many of us have family heirlooms that are just a little worn that we would love to save and pass on to our children. Or maybe you are an antique dealer or reseller and you buy to sell for a profit. Either way, if you have any antiques or collectibles that are worn instead of putting them in the scrap pile now you can save them and bring them back up like new.

What Is Silver Plate?

There are many different types of silver plate, The earliest form of silver plate was known as, Sheffield plate, and was discovered in 1742. Sheffield Plate is a process of Fusion where two silver sheets are fused to a center copper sheet like a sandwich. The finished result of Sheffield Plate was so good, that the manufacturers of Sheffield plate even adopted a series of impressed markings to simulate sterling silver hallmarks to fool people. These fake hallmarks were not identical to the standard British hallmark of a Lion Patent, Town Mark, and Date letter, but they were more un-legible marks.

Another form of silver plate is known as EPNS. which is Electro Plated Nickle Silver. Electroplated nickel silver was patented in 1840 by George Richards Elkington, EPNS is the form of the silver plate we still use today. This form bonds a micro-thin layer of silver to the base metal using a small electrical current.

Most EPNS is silver that has been bonded to Nickel, Copper, and Brass as a base metal. However, you can also get EPBM which stands for Electroplated Britania Metal. This is a type of soft metal alloy similar to pewter with a silver overlay.

How Can You Tell The Difference Between Silver Plate And Sterling Silver?

Almost all the silver you are likely to come across will be marked. The hallmarking system has been used in the UK as far back as the fourteenth century. King Edward III in 1327 by granting a royal charter to the Goldsmith’s Company. However, in other parts of the world hallmarking has been used as far back as 400AD by the Byzantine empire.

There will be instances where you will come across silver that is not hallmarked, These examples could be foreign as not all countries are strict with hallmarks. Another reason could be simply the hallmark has worn away from years of cleaning. Sterling silver is a very soft metal as years of cleaning will soften details and even polish off hallmarks altogether.

Both EPNS silver plate and Sterling Silver are nonmagnetic, this is because the silver coating and the base metals used, for example, brass, copper-nickel, and bronze are nonferrous. What this means is you can not simply use a magnet to identify silver or silver plate.

Although Sterling Silver is a very soft metal, it would not a reliable method to try bending an item to see how strong it actually is, while over years of handling silver and silver plate you will learn to spot the difference to some degree of accuracy I would not recommend this be used as an identification tool.

If an item has impressed marks you need to identify it from a genuine sterling hallmark or silver mark from another country compared to the many different styles of EPNS impressed marks, there are websites that can help you with this and I will include links to outside websites that I use for dating and identification of marks myself.

If an item is not marked and you want a reliable way to identify silver or silver plate then the only safe way is to use an x-ray gun or acid test. please find below a link to a film I have done showing how to acid test sterling silver.

Here are a few links to the sites I use, these are outside sites however the information held within is very reliable and exceptionally detailed.

Sterling Silver Hallmarks – https://www.silvermakersmarks.co.uk/Dates/index.html

Sterling Silver Makers Marks – https://www.silvermakersmarks.co.uk/MakersMarks.html

Silver Plate Marks – https://www.silvercollection.it/dictionarydecryptingsilverplatemarks.html

What Items Have Been Produced From Silver Plate?

Originally silver plate would have been used for utilitarian items such as cutlery, tea sets, trays, Biscuit tins, and candlesticks, etc. However, with the passing of time and the improvements in technology from when silver plating was patented, There really isn’t anything that hasn’t been produced from silver plate. In order to give you an idea of the range of things produced in silver plate. Everything that has ever been produced in Sterling silver has also been produced in Silver plate. In addition to this, you can find things like Silver Plate Jewelry. Musical Instruments, even medals where they were once sterling are just plated.

What Are Silver Plate Antiques and Collectibles Worth?

White Sterling silver has an intrinsic scrap or melt value, Silver Plate is basically brass or copper. What that means in actual terms just looking at the intrinsic value for a moment, Sterling Silver is approx £0.50 a gram or £500 per kilo, for the same melt value of silver plate is approx £3 – £4 per kilo.

This however does not mean silver plate is worthless, all that means is that you need to be buying items based on a number of different factors. The condition, the age, the artistic design, the maker, its rarity, and many more can the item be used for its original function.

Here is a fine example of a silver plate performing at its best in a major auction house. in December 2019 a silver plate teapot by Dr. Christopher Dresser was sold for a fraction under $400,000.00 https://www.christies.com/lot/lot-6250240 . Most silver plate you find will be relatively cheap but you must apply all the rules above to value an item on its individual merits. Silver Plate Can also be as cheap as just a few pounds.

Why Repair Silver Plate?

There are only a few reasons why someone would wish to repair a silver plate, The first reason is, nostalgia, maybe they love the item or it was a family heirloom. Rarity, maybe the item is scarce and deserves to be restored and saved, and finally to make money, as we have already disguised above silver plate has very little melt value so if an item can be saved and sold it is better for the environment and for your pocket.

Can Silver Plate Be Repaired?

Yes silver plates can be repaired, up until a few years ago you would have to send your silver plate off to a specialist who would have the tools, equipment, and space needed to restore the silver plate, this would then be done in the bulk process restoring multiple items in a large bath of solution at once. However these days a silver replacement liquid that you do yourself at home has been developed, I am very pleased to say it works.

How To Repair and Replate Silver Plate.

I have produced a film showing the use of the following produced, and you will find the link to the film below this paragraph. firstly make sure your selected restoration item is clean and dry, I would recommend if you use any chemical-based cleaner that you then wash the item and leave it until completely dry, just in case the cleaning chemical clashes with the silver liquid.

Once your item is clean and ready, simply apply a small about of Nushine liquid onto a clean cloth and rub over the desired area. The cloth will turn black but keep rubbing, this is the chemical molecular bonding combining the silver to your item. once done give your item a light buff, if you need to then repeat the process as many times as needed to get the desired result. the picture above took three layers to achieve.

Here is the Silver Plate Liquid Solution I Used In Todays Film.

How Do You Clean Silver Plate?

Cleaning silver plate is important because the silver plate is only a micro layer of silver over a base metal, it can be polished off if you use an abrasive cloth. there are things that you should use with extreme care or avoid when cleaning silver plate, for example, things like Silvo. The wadding is too ruff and can strip the silver in no time at all. I would recommend if you are going to clean silver plate, either use the baking soda method as seen in the video clip below or by using products such as Goddards Silver Foam which comes with a very soft sponge. tread silver plate with the same care as you would sterling silver as it is every bit as fragile.

Conclusion.

in conclusion, you can restore silver plate items, and we have learned that restoring silver plate antiques and collectibles is far more profitable than just throwing them in the melt or scrap pot. and we have learned that you no longer have to send your items way for a long period of time and have expensive bills to repair silver plate. for just £15 you can have your own bottle that will do the job perfectly.

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