Appraising Sterling Silver

We absolutely love sterling silver. But the market for sterling silver flatware has gotten soft in recent years … since the days of having the time or motivation to polish and maintain huge sets of sterling flatware — with three forks, four spoons and several knives in each place setting — are pretty much over. However, larger pieces — known as hollowware — seem to be holding their value as decorative and historical items (rather than utilitarian).

French and Asian silver is very hot right now; and, of course, fine British silver — especially older examples by known silversmiths — is still interesting to us and collectible to many. And some have stunningly high value.

A Family's Desirable Tankards

As always, condition and provenance are very important. For instance, tankards from the George II and George III eras by prominent silversmith John Langlands — who worked in Newcastle, England, in the late 18th century — often go for $5,000 to $8,000 at public auction.

A local client brought us an example, however, that we refused to pay more than $900 for. It had only 18 ounces of silver total — about $290 in scrap silver. But because of its condition, we estimated we could only achieve $1,200 to $1,500 for it.

tankard mug
tankard side view
tankard bottom view


The tankard came with terrific provenance, as it had been in the family for 70 years and had the original paperwork from the silver vaults in London. But it had over a dozen small to rather large dents, which lowered the value considerably. Further, it was “after decorated,” referring to the fancy repoussé work added to the original piece to match later styles.

On the plus side, it appeared to have a family crest — which is always desirable. Please note that not all silver and gold need to be “thrown on the scale.” Many have value far beyond their simple gold and silver worth.

This is an archival article formerly written and is for informational purposes only. The valuations in this article have likely changed since it was first written.

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