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Sterling Silver Flatware Frequently asked questions


Silverware purity defined:

What is Sterling?   Is it pure silver?


Sterling silver is 92.5% silver with a 7.5% additive, usually copper. Sterling made in the USA after  the 1880's & always has a sterling mark.  It may say Sterling, .925 or show the fraction 925/1000.  If it does not have this mark then it is likely not sterling, unless it is foreign made (not in the USA) and has other hallmarks that designate its silver content.   It can also be tested with an acid to determine its content.  This should only be done by a professional.

Sterling flatware always retains it intrinsic silver value & usually a value also as tableware.  Silver plate has no intrinsic silver value.  It is not worth the refining costs to try to redeem the silver. It has very little resale value as tableware.

Sterling will last forever if you want to use it and take care of it.  Most Silver plate will last approximately 20 years or less depending on use with the proper care.

When buying either your sterling or silver plated pattern, choose a pattern because you like it. Choose something that will last over the changing eras of your life.  When choosing your china, crystal & silverware, choose something that compliments each other. But most of all, you are the one that you have to please.  So choose what you like.

When is silver pure silver?

Pure silver is usually labeled .999 fine, it can never be guaranteed completely 100% pure.  No silver flatware is made with pure silver.  You will only find this when it comes to silver bullion bars available for the purposes of trading silver as a commodity.


What is English Sterling?

English sterling silver is marked with a series of four or five small hallmarks. The standing lion with his right front paw raised (The lion passant) is the most commonly seen sterling quality mark. The other marks indicate the city of origin, the maker, and the year of manufacture.  Some of the marks will include the face of the monarch.    Since the year 1200 all English Silver is 92.5% pure silver.  The word "Sterling" originated from Great Britain.



What is Coin Silver?

Coin Silver is 90% pure silver usually manufactured from real coins that were in circulation.   When England colonized North America, there was little silver available to early American silversmiths and thus they melted down the silver coins that were in circulation.   The 90% standard lasted until about 1865 when The United States finally adopted the .925 fine sterling standard that England had been using since the year 1200.



Can Silverware be of lower purity than 92.5% Sterling?

Yes, there are many countries that use a lower purity than 92.5% pure.   German produces 800 fine items 80% pure, Norway 83% pure, Russia 84% pure and many other European Countries also produce silver items of varying purities.  However, the vast majority of important items made out of silver our usually made in the 92.5% pure sterling standard.


 Silver Cleaning Section:


Can you put sterling flatware in the dishwasher?

Silverware may be washed in the dishwasher but hand washing is the preferred method.   The patina on fine silver is enhanced by the rubbing that occurs when washing and drying by hand. Hollow handles may be loosened with exposure to heat and detergent in the dishwasher, if you do wash your sterling try to leave the knives out and wash those by hand.
(Note from the Silver Queen:  The newer silverware is being made with glue that will withstand the heat. Also when you use your dishwasher, do not economy dry. Use only your hot dry. Be sure to wait until your dishwasher is cool before removing your fine china and crystal.)


New sterling silverware sometimes gets brown spots after washing in the dishwasher. Sterling is 92.5% silver and 7.5% other alloys including copper for greater durability. In automatic dishwashing, a reaction can occur between water droplets and the small portion of copper at the surface to cause brown spots on some pieces. After the silverware has been washed several times, the copper on the surface is gone and the surface is pure silver. Avoid such spotting on new silverware by washing and drying new silverware by hand for the first If you want to use the dishwasher, follow these precautions: Use the automatic rinse dispenser feature of a dishwasher. The rinse agent lowers the surface tension of the rinse water so it sheets off the surfaces and droplets don't form. Or use a rinse agent in solid form that hangs on the dishwasher rack, if your dishwasher does not have an automatic rinse dispenser. 
Remove new silverware from the dishwasher immediately after the last rinse cycle and towel dry for the first few times.



How do I clean my Sterling Flatware?

Most of the time you will want to use a gentle rub or silver polish to keep your sterling shiny. For a lightly tarnished piece we recommend a Hagerty's Silver Dusting Cloth item   # 1821509.  For something darker we recommend using Hagerty's Silversmith's Polish item  #1811510 or Hagerty's Silver Foam item #1821511  We don't advise using silver dips as they are diluted acid and have a tendency of taking off a bit of the silver along with the tarnish.  

If your silverware is extremely tarnished, we have a product called Hagerty 100, item #1821527.  Hagerty 100 will handle your toughest polishing jobs for all metals.  It quickly and easily removes years of tarnish, dirt, corrosion, grease, lime and water stains.  It protects metals with 3 tarnish and corrosion inhibitors.  




What is the best way to clean Silver Tea Sets, Goblets and other fine sterling holloware?

If you are cleaning silver hollow ware you may use Silver Foam which can be applied & simply washed off item #1821511  We also have a silver polish in a  spray can that can just be wiped off item #1821512.   If you have a lot of decoration that you want to clean, a soft horse hair brush can be used item #1821526.   Please remember that the dark inside of your intricate designs is desirable.  It shows off the pattern. If you remove it, it will come back naturally after a period of time

Once you have cleaned your silver we have silver protection strips to keep in your china cupboards to protect the silver that is exposed to the air item #1821515.
We also have Cloth Protective Coverings in which to store them.


  Silver Flatware Particulars Section:


What makes up the 5 piece setting or a 4 piece setting?

A 5 piece setting is comprised of a salad fork, place fork, place knife, place soup spoon and a teaspoon as pictured above going from left to right.     A 4 piece setting would be all the above minus the soup spoon.

What are the standard serving pieces?

The standard serving pieces  sometimes sold as a 6 piece hostess set are the A. Table serving spoon; B. Pierced Tablespoon; C. Cold Meat Fork; D. Sugar Spoon; E. Master Butter Knife;  F. Pie Server.

There are also dozens of more serving pieces available, visit our servers store to see all the other options.




What is pre-owned silverware?

Pre-owned or estate silverware is silverware that has been purchased from estates, individuals wishing to sell their silverware and sometimes from a jewelry store that has gone out of business.

If the silver piece is not damaged and has not been initialed, we have it polished to look like new. 
It will come to you individually wrapped in a fresh plastic bag.

If the silver that we purchase is damaged or initialed, we sell it a refinery.

Sterling Silverware is a form of what is called "Hard Money".  Many people do not want to keep all their money in banks and the stock market.  They prefer to have some invested in something tangible.  Although you will never get the same profit from your sterling flatware or hollow ware as you would from investment silver, you will always be able to receive the intrinsic value of the piece value minus the costs of refining it.  Since sterling is .925 silver, you can usually get at least .75 of the silver metal price.  You must remember that the use of your silver over the years is part of your profit.  When you buy a new tablecloth, it is very rarely that you can resell it.

But you may also receive more than the intrinsic value if your pattern is one that is resalable.  Many people are adding to discontinued sets & are looking for your patterns.  We specialize in discontinued patterns along with patterns that are still active.


What is a made order pattern?

Made to order patterns:
Even though many patterns of silverware, china & crystal are discontinued by the companies, they are not all made obsolete.  When they are made obsolete the dies or molds are destroyed & the pattern is never made again. But when a pattern has been discontinued but not obsoleted, from time to time the pattern made be made again.

However it is not profitable for the companies to make one piece.  Either they charge many times the value of the piece or they hold the orders until they get enough to make manufacturing worth their while.

When we order from them, it is a contract that we cannot break.  Therefore we require the same contract from our customers.   Payment is made at the time of the order.  There is no return except for damage.

Unfortunately, there have been times where the companies do not get enough orders. They cancel our contract. We refund the money to our customer.

Our recommendation is instead of "Made to Order", you wait until a preowned piece shows up or you select another pattern that contrasts with your pattern.



What is the difference in sizes of lunch, place, dinner and continental in place settings?

Depending on the manufacturer and the time period that the silver was purchased you might notice that some of your knives and forks could be different sizes if not all bought at the same time.

Since about 1975 most manufacturers have deemed "place size" the industry standard for 4 piece and 5 piece settings.  The knife is usually about 9" long and fork about 7.25" long.    If you purchase a brand new setting today without specifying a size preference you will receive place size.

Prior to 1975 many patterns had what is called a "luncheon size" as the standard to purchase for when brides bought their new silverware.   Lunch size has knives about 8.75" long and forks about 7".

There is also a size called "dinner size."   This measures usually 9.5" for the knife and 7.75" for a fork.   Dinner size is more common in Texas and also in Europe.

An uncommon forth size is called "continental size."  This size is massive with knives almost 10" and for fork over 8".  There are only a handful of American patterns made with this size available, with Grande Baroque by Wallace being the primary one.

When set on the table most people would never notice that some forks and knives might be a hare longer or shorter and many of our customers freely mix their luncheon, place and dinner pieces when entertaining.  However, in the box the shorter and longer forks will not stack on top of each other as nicely and that in is problem for many people.  Most people to want all their forks and knives to be of one specific size.   Some of our customers have both place and dinner size for really extravagant dining.   It's all really up to you and ultimately you have to judge how particularly you want to be when accumulating your silver service.

What is "grille" size?

 There are a few companies, mostly from the forties and fifties that made a knife and fork that they called "grille" size.  Both the knife and the fork have long handles and short blades or tines.  "Royal Crest" was one of these companies. The usage of "grille" size as either for your main course or as an additional 2 pieces added to your place setting to be used as a fish knife or fish fork.  So the choice is yours.



Grille Size Pictured above:  Notice the oblong handles and shortness of the tines and the blade


Lunch Size Pictured above:  Regular proportions of handle and blade.


 What is Repousse?

 Repoussé on metal is the process used to emboss a sterling or other metal object from the back or inside with larger punches. The pattern will push out from the front.   


What is the difference between satin finish and high gloss finish in silver?

Polishing of the silverware is done by using a polishing wheel attached to a long-spindled motorized arbor which runs at high speed. Different abrasive compounds are used to obtain various finishes. Different rouges as they are called impart different finishes.  High gloss is you’re shiniest.  Frosted or matte would give you a duller finish emphasizing more the form of the piece.  This polishing is all done by hand.

What does modern blade and french blade mean?

Over the years knife styles have varied in the manufacturing process of sterling silverware.  The standard blade size on most patterns is the "modern blade" as show above to the left.  It is completely smooth on the edge going up and down on either side.

French bladed knives were more popular about 40 years ago.   The Blade where it meets the handle has a slight over hang that juts out past the handle and then tapers down in a small groove where it then re-unites with the handle. 


What is Hand Chasing?

Hand Chasing on silver or metal is the technique of detailing the front surface of a  sterling or other metal article with various hammer-struck punches. Your pattern will be flat or indented into the metal.


What is Electroplating?

Electroplating: The process of putting a metallic coating on a metal or other conducting surface by using an electric current. It is used to improve the appearance of materials, for protection against corrosion, and to make plates for printing.

The thickness of the layer deposited on the article depends on the strength of the electric current, the concentration of metallic ions, and the length of time the article has been in the solution. The terms triple-plated and quadruple-plated indicate various thicknesses of plating, not separate layers deposited on the surface.

Resource: Melvin Bernstein, "Electroplating," Discovery Channel School, original content provided by World Book


What is Engraving

Engraving on Metal is the process of cutting shallow lines into silver or another metal with a sharp graver, reproducing artwork which has been drawn on a metal article.  Hand engraving removes metal when cutting, Machine engraving does not remove metal, Bright cutting is another form of engraving which when viewed is very reflective because of its flat, angled cut.

What is Martele?

Martele is the french word for hand hammered.  Martele has a hammered finish.  It is also made of 95% pure silver instead of sterling silver which is .925 fine.  From 1897 to about 1912 The Gorham Company wanted to produce special pieces that were completely hand made.  The artists, chasers, and silversmiths would typically take 100-300 hours to produce just one item.   These pieces are now highly desired and collectible and fetch the highest prices in the silver market place typically between $150 to $600 per ounce depending on the aesthetics of the item.

Why did my stainless steel knife blades pit? 

Prolonged soaking, (i.e. overnight) in water must be avoided especially where several pieces may be in close contact during the soaking period.  The "rinse and hold" cycle on an automatic dishwasher is particularly hard on cutlery because the pieces are warm and wet for an extended period of time.  Best care for your cutlery is to wash and dry as soon as practical after using, do so should help avoid your knives from getting black unsightly pits.   Pits cannot be removed from stainless once they set in.

 I don't know my pattern and it isn't marked anywhere on the flatware pieces, how do I find out the name of it?

We offer a comprehensive on-line pattern identification guides that quickly help you look up and find out this information easily.  
Visit:   https://www.silverqueen.com/Info/Guide


I know the name of my pattern, how do I find out what you have available and the prices?

We have a beautiful system that allows you to find your pattern easily:



Selling your sterling silver flatware


How do I sell my Silverware?

We are one of the nation's premier buyers of sterling silver flatware.   Since 1972, we have purchased millions of pieces of sterling flatware paying top dollar.   We need to constantly buy flatware for our silver matching business and can usually pay a premium on better flatware patterns.   We are always honest, fair, competitive and reliable in our quotes and payment method.  
For a free no-obligation quote please click on the link below to receive our offer: